South LA garden helps community “grow” in many ways

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


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

Speak Your Mind