Community garden still going strong after five years

The music was blaring as residents walked the street fair on Raymond Avenue in South Los Angeles, on Saturday, to celebrate the saving of its community garden by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and philanthropist Erika Glazer, along with the City and County of Los Angeles.

imageErika J. Glazer Community Garden (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

A ceremony was held to announce the renaming of the the Raymond Avenue Community Garden to Erika J. Glazer Community Garden, and to unveil a new sign for the Glazer Garden, which was designed by its founder, resident Julie Burleigh.

Booths were set up along the street around the DJ for residents to receive information about everything from conserving water to making a worm compost.

Children lined up eager to get their face-painted, and many had their hand cupped around small, makeshift pot made out of newspaper.

“I planted beans,” said Melissa Ramirez.

The eight-year-old scooped dirt into her pot and planted her seeds, right before spraying some water on top of the fresh dirt.

imageMelissa Ramirez (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

Nkoli Udeorji, a volunteer with the grass-roots organization LA Green Grounds, stood behind a table to show other kids how to plant their seed of choice. She said being at the event is a great way to connect with the community.

“I thought we would bring the kids and let them run around,” said Karlyn Johnson, who heard about the event from another parent.

Johnson lives just a few blocks away from Raymond Avenue and said she had never known there was a garden so close to her residence.

“The more we can do stuff [like this] the more we can help the neighborhood,” said Johnson.

Julie Burleigh, who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, started the garden in 2008 out of a desire to be more involved in her community and create a space for growing food.

Inside, there are 35, squared-off plots. A total of 24 families grow their own food and plants, with some owning multiple pots.

Demand is high for a chance to own a plot said Burleigh, as she points to a waiting list on a table outside of the garden’s entrance. She said right now the garden is only available to the community gardeners, but she is looking to open it up for the whole community in the future.

Almost three years ago, Burleigh reached out for help to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), an organization that helps underserved communities develop and manage small parks and community gardens.

The 5,000 square-foot space that was being maintained by community gardeners was at risk of being taken away. The property owner owed $100,000 in back taxes, but LANLT was able to step in and also find philanthropist Erika Glazer.

Glazer donated $150,000 to pay off the taxes as well as upgrades to the garden.

Burleigh said she is surprised that the community garden has been able to survive.

“I’m also so surprised that an organization an come in and save it. It’s hard to manage a community garden – more failures than success,” she said. “It’s amazing…a total dream come true.”

“It’s a great way to be a part of the community and to get to know people and connect with people everyday,” said Burleigh.

South LA garden helps community “grow” in many ways

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The community garden on Raymond Avenue in West Adams has been around for three years, providing space for community residents to grow fresh produce for just $3 per plot.

image In the spring sunshine, lush greenery coats the garden. This season, vegetables can be found throughout the space, including artichokes, lemon grass and lettuce. Along the wood chip path, a cage of bunnies and compost stations can also be found. But the garden hasn’t always looked this way.

“I think prior to my living here, it was kind of a gang hangout, and there was a building that burnt down 20 years ago, and apparently that kind of sat around for a while,” said Julie Burleigh, who originally came up with the idea for the garden. “It was just a big junky lot, lots of weeds, and people would dump stuff, and you know, people would let their dogs run around, and it was just kind of an eyesore in the neighborhood.”

Burleigh was tired of viewing the empty lot and decided to turn it into something for the entire neighborhood to enjoy.

“So I said, ‘Why doesn’t someone start a community garden?’ You know, that would be a good idea,” Burleigh said. “And had a desire to connect with people in the community and I really wanted to grow food. I got really into gardening after moving here.”

What began as an idea has grown into a reality. Now, the garden provides a place to grow for 30 families in the community. But getting a plot is competitive. Since its opening, the garden has always had a waiting list.

“People want to grow their food,” Burleigh said. “It’s a pretty tempting thing to want to do when you see it being done, like right in your neighborhood. You’re like, ‘How can I get a piece of that?'”

Being able to grow her own food was one of the reasons why Ashley Miller, a Raymond Avenue resident, first jumped on the opportunity of having a community garden.

“Knowing what you put in your own vegetables and you didn’t use no pesticides and anything like that,” Miller said. “Growing it all natural, really was like, ‘Oh, maybe that’d be a good idea instead of getting it from the store.’ That’s what baited me in.”

Despite its popularity, the garden has had its struggles. In particular, the garden has been watered down with a lack of volunteers and limited financial support.

“It can be hard,” Burleigh said. “It’s like managing your own non-profit.”

However, the garden’s influence continues to thrive in the community.

“People watch out for each other, I think, a little bit more,” Burleigh said. “And it’s like, obvious its cared for. So I think that affects everyone’s feeling of like, ‘Oh, this is a good place.’ And I think the garden helps spread the love a little bit.”

And that aspect is key to the garden’s success, which is why community gardens are sprouting up throughout Los Angeles.

Photos courtesy of Full Moon Pickles blog

Seed Lady works toward community garden in Watts

When Anna Marie Carter goes for a walk outside of her home, she usually returns with a number of seeds in her pocket. She has been known to collect seeds for about 20 different types of vegetation. After some time, she developed a reputation as the Seed Lady of Watts.

“I am not your normal, average American,” Carter, the founder of the Watts Garden Club, said. “I save seeds, and your normal, average American does not save any.”

But her expertise in gardening will pay off in her latest endeavor, the LA Watts Times reported. The certified master gardener will help set up a new 2.48-acre plot of land in Watts, working alongside her friend, Janine Watkins, of the non-profit Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC).

The land, located at 103rd and Grape streets, has already been purchased by the WLCAC. The Watts Health Foundation initially owned the land about 10 years ago, but sold the land to pay off some debts, Watkins said. When the foundation owned the property, Carter was already in discussion about possibly purchasing the land, but says she feels honored and proud to now play a role in the WLCAC’s plans.

“Our organization knew of Carter and her endeavors to beautify gardens, so we brought her in our wing to help with the land,” Watkins said.

The 124-plot land, and the front portion of the land, is set to open by fall, Watkins said.

“Everything Carter and our organization provide is fused with the idea that urban communities should have access to local food,” Watkins added.

Carter launched the Watts Garden Club in 2002 because she wanted to offset the area’s reputation. Most see Watts as an impoverished and drug-infested area, so she intended to create an outlet where children and families could come together to plant gardens. The club also emphasizes the importance of eating and living better.


To learn more about the club, please visit, or contact Carter at (323) 969-4740.