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South Central Farms – Update

May 13, 2011
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Some of you may have heard in the 1990s and early 200s about South Central Farms, some may have heard about their epic eviction, some may have seen it filmed in the wonderful The Garden, or have even read the interview with Tezo from SCF in Farm Together Now about what some of the members have been up to since the eviction. Well the good news is that SCF has a chance to return to Los Angeles. Check out this note from SCF’s facebook page below:

!!!!Take Action TODAY to Save the Farm!!!!

Thank you!

~SCF~

~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~

The South Central Farm/ers: The Dream Reborn

Los Angeles, CA 11 May 2011–Today, the Los Angeles Times editorial board announced its support for restoring the South Central Farm (see below), once a fourteen-acre miracle of family agriculture in the heart of industrial Los Angeles. What the Times isn’t saying here is that the land that was the Farm is in escrow according to reports received by the Farmers, with only four months left to find a way to return the Farm to the community before the land is sold. The Farmers are again relying on Angelinos to come to the aid of the legendary urban farm.

The South Central Farm is one of those rare causes that, in 2006, united Los Angeles across racial and generational divides. Thousands of people, some who had never been to South Central and others who lived there, stood in line side by side to hear Zack de La Rocha and Son De Madera do a benefit concert for the Farm. Tens of thousands contributed time and money to save the agriculture paradise they had “discovered” wedged between the train tracks and the trucking corridor. Word spread around the world and found support from farmers from South Africa to Oaxaca. Day after day, the ordinary and the famous, from Willie Nelson to Ralph Nader to Joan Baez to Danny Glover, made the pilgrimage to the Farm and tasted air that was palpably fresher, cleaner inside the chain link fence. Environmentalists Daryl Hannah, John Quigley, and Julia Butterfly Hill climbed trees and took turns in perches until the sheriffs drove two hook-and-ladder trucks across the crops to pull the tree sitters down. Hundreds who had camped on the land for weeks after the eviction notice were run off, and over forty-four protestors were arrested.

The Farmers’ mission was and remains to provide fresh food to the food desert that is South Central Los Angeles. Today, they truck in food grown on their farm in Bakersfield, but they hold fast to the promise they made to the South Central community and all of Los Angeles back in 2006: Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos. We are here, and we’re not leaving. The Farmers stand ready to restore the Farm.

The fight for green space, for community space, in recent years has coursed from Taylor Yard to the Cornfields to Ballona Wetlands to the South Central Farm. The Farm was a glimmer of beauty, a source of pride for a poor community and for a mostly concrete-covered urban metropolis. The land sits fallow, waiting to be a Farm again. To make that happen in just four months, the Farmers call on all of Los Angeles to help quickly.

The South Central Farmers are asking that everyone who has heard the story of the Farm take two actions now:

1.        That you join the Farmers’ mailing list

2.       and that you write to the Los Angeles City Council and our local politicians to ask them to Stand Up and support the restoration of the Farm.

Time is short, and more actions will be needed, but this is where we start: Save the Farm!

Los Angeles Times Editorial

A South-Central garden spot again?

The urban parcel once cultivated by the South Central Farmers is again available, for a price. It’s worth pursuing a deal with a foundation to get it growing again.

May 12, 2011

Once there was a farm in South Los Angeles that sprouted among warehouses and railroad tracks. In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers, avocado trees and beans and tomatillos took root and gave 350 families a bountiful harvest and a gathering place. But the plot of land at 41st and Alameda — estimated at 14 acres — was not the farmers’ to keep. Allowed to garden there by the city after it took possession under eminent domain, the land was eventually sold back to a previous owner. The farmers could leave — or buy the property from him for about $16 million.

The 2 1/2-year battle that erupted in 2006 played out like an opera.

The South Central Farmers, as the gardeners named themselves, felt betrayed by city politicians. The property owner, Ralph Horowitz, believed — rightly — that he was being unfairly vilified for simply trying to protect his investment. Despite a promise of millions from the Annenberg Foundation, a deal to buy the property and keep the farm going fell through, giving way to the ugly sight of bulldozers plowing crops under.

But life went on. Some farmers moved farther south to land that L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry helped them find. Others — who kept the South Central Farmers name — moved to land near Bakersfield, where they continue to grow produce that they sell at farmers’ markets and in several Whole Foods stores. And some quit farming altogether.

Photos: Remembering the fight of the South Central Farmers

Now, nearly five years later, the property that ignited so much drama sits vacant, awash in wild grasses. But it is for sale, and the South Central Farmers want it back.

Nobody is standing in their way. But nobody is helping them either. Horowitz is asking about $18 million for the property. Perry, the City Council member in whose district the parcel lies, says she would like it to go to the buyer who would bring the greatest number of jobs to people in the immediate area.

Like Perry, we want to see the best use of this large parcel — a rare find — as well. And there’s no question that jobs are badly needed in the community. But is someone offering to create a lot of jobs there? As far as we know, in the tortured history of this piece of land over the last 25 years, the most productive use of it was the urban farm that lasted 14 years. No one wins with the land lying empty and fallow.

The South Central Farmers’ proposal should at least be heard out. Hardly diplomats, they have alienated a lot of people over the years. But they love the land, and they have a plan that may improve on the erstwhile farm. “The garden will be an educational and cultural center,” said Tezozomoc, their most vocal representative, who goes by a single name. He promises that it will be more community-oriented than it was, and that the original farmers will not take plots to garden but will open them to other city residents.

A nonprofit organization or foundation would have to finance the purchase and would essentially own the land. Whether theAnnenberg Foundation would get involved again is unclear. The farmers would have to present their request to the foundation anew.

Horowitz, of course, has to act in his best business interest. This may all be moot if he closes an alternative deal on the land. (It’s been on the market for a year.)

Meanwhile, Perry — who is running for mayor — should at least meet with the farmers to hear their proposal and consider whether to advocate for them. She says she supports community gardens and has created two wetland areas in her district. That’s good. But this piece of land is like no other in her district — a sprawling, flat expanse. Many people were heartened by the presence of the urban farm amid the concrete. Perry herself, in a 2003 letter, hailed the garden as “a vibrant oasis.” If a deal with a foundation can be worked out, wouldn’t it be good to have something growing there again?

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

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