An urban farm to feed a neighborhood

By Mary MacVean

Assante Microfarm in L.A. (Photo by Mary MacVean)

As people gathered along the sidewalk outside the corner house at Angeles Vista Boulevard and Olympiad Drive, motorists slowed to check out the fuss.

The fuss, on a hot Saturday morning, was Asante Microfarm, which not so long ago was a yard covered in grass, like those at so many homes in Los Angeles, where we know grass isn’t the best environmental choice, nor the best economic choice. But a farm?

Asante Microfarm’s grand opening on April 3 drew dozens of people to the View Park neighborhood who are interested in the project or in becoming a member who will get part of the harvest each week. Or who wanted to see a transformation in their neighborhood.

This farm has 600 edible plants in an average yard, and it recycles the water over and over, by sending it through a series of pipes and into a cistern covered with landscaping rocks. Instead of the 800 gallons a day it took to keep the grass green, the farm uses just 65 gallons a day.

“My dream started in 2019,” said Mychal Creer, who lives at the house with his wife, Jazmyn, and his mother. He and Crop Swap LA decided to work together on a project they hope will be replicated all over South Los Angeles and beyond. It is Crop Swap LA’s mission to grow food on unused spaces — or those that could be better used — to create jobs and a hyper-local, affordable food hub.

The founder of Crop Swap, Jamiah Hargins, said the food will be sold within two square miles. And he wants to see a farm built every two square miles. Food that’s as local as it gets in a part of the city that too often is left to make do with second-class produce.

“It’s OK to leave behind ideas like the grocery system,” Hargins told the crowd, noting that a Ralphs supermarket in the area is among those the company could close soon. “Nature is showing us we can create our own food.”

People in the area of the farm can sign up for a weekly box of vegetables, for $36 a month. Among the plants growing in April were bok choy, several lettuces and herbs, tomatoes and greens.

The plants are in traditional rows on the yard, but look a little closer, and it’s clear this is not a traditional plot. The plants are in black garden soxx, which lie next to one another. The soil in them is replaced every two years.

It’s been decades that people have been tackling ways to make sure that everyone in Los Angeles gets access to affordable, nutritious food in their neighborhoods — through policy change and many efforts to grow food in the city. And the Covid-19 pandemic has led many of us to take our gardening more seriously or to start trying to grow some of their own produce. Equity in food is still a ways away.

If you missed the opening of Asante Microfarm, watch for news about the next one. And the next. And the next.

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