Compton Opens New Vegetable and Fruit ‘People’s Garden’ to Combat Food Desert – NBC Los Angeles

on Oct6
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It took a partnership between non-profits and the USDA to make the vegetable and fruit garden in a city where healthy food options have often been limited.

Wednesday afternoon NBC4 spoke with the woman who pulled it all together.

From rich soil that was carefully irrigated, fertilized, and planted the “fruits” of their labor are already showing.

It’s hard to believe, says Lori Gay the president and CEO, but the piece of land sat useless for nearly 40 years. An old store that went out of business a long time ago used to sit there.

“It was vacant and abandoned, it had seven bee hives,” Gay said. “I mean, it was a mess.”

As the head of Neighborhood Housing Services of LA County, Gay says children in Compton grew up seeing nasty and dangerous buildings. She wanted to change that.

“They thought it was normal. It’s not normal, it’s trauma,” Gay said.

Wednesday morning, she and other dignitaries cut the ribbon on the “People’s Garden,” a place where good and healthy food can be grown.

A trend in Southern and Eastern part of the county that is slowly catching on as so-called “food deserts” struggle to bring healthy options to their residents, where few existed before.

Gay likes to say, “if children grow tomatoes, they will eat tomatoes.”

It’s also true of celery and lettuce and everything else in the garden as well.

“Neighbors can come here and are welcome to take it at any point. For free,” said Jamiah Hargins, from

Hargins’ urban farming non-profit helped the U.S. Department of Agriculture out in a state of the art irrigation and greenhouse covering.

He reminded NBC4 that cities like Compton have so much un-tapped potential for this kind of farming.

“Compton has always been an agricultural city and town,” Hargins said. “It has some of the richest soil in the state.”

All you need he says is a little “know-how”, some un-used land, and visionaries like Gay to make it happen.

Gay says this isn’t just about putting healthy food in a “food desert.”

It’s about empowering Compton to change its own destiny, one garden at a time.

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