SUMMARY: LA Green Grounds’ “Dig-ins” help south Los Angeles residents to create front-yard food gardens, positively impacting a community deprived of healthy food options. The highly visible demonstration gardens, which are easily replicated, increase food security by providing affordable, sustainably home-grown organic food, improve interactions among neighbors, and empower the community.
PROBLEM SPACE: Blocks of barred windows, brown weeds, liquor stores, corner malls, and fast food is the scenery of South LA. Here, many residents suffer from the chronic effects of an unhealthy diet (diabetes, obesity), because they lack the time, funds, and means of transportation which are required to purchase healthy produce from quality markets. However, growing food in front yards provides them with an alternative source, and the health effects of each Dig-in are tangible and immediate. By building gardens in visible locations, neighbors connect to one another as food and garden work are shared, and as gardens grow, so does pride in the community. Residents connected to their community are motivated to improve it. Front yard gardens also relieve reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides and eliminate the environmental damage caused by transporting food for hundreds of miles. In addition, home-based gardening reinforces a personal connection to the earth and an appreciation of vital ecosystem processes.
SOLUTION: The soul of LAGG is the "Dig-in," a garden-creating and learning event. Recipients who are recruited through community outreach are assessed on five criteria: they live in under-resourced communities, desire to improve their health, want to share food with neighbors, strive to live sustainably, and advocate the LAGG vision. They must also "pay it forward" by participating in at least two Dig-ins.
We work in south Los Angeles, with volunteers throughout the county. Dig-ins occur every month from September through June. A team that includes a Certified Master Gardener plans the event, designs the garden, and recruits volunteers. In advance, team and resident: obtain compost, clear weeds, develop a planting list, and invite neighbors. A diverse group from throughout LA comes together to share the experience, stories, ideas, and work, in an intensive seven-hour session. Dig-in participants remove turf grass using shovels and pick axes, amend the soil, break for a communal lunch, build garden beds, and plant vegetables and fruit trees that are grown by LAGG volunteers and donated. Our sustainable events use no disposable materials. We follow-up with Dig-in recipients five times during the following year, to help insure that their garden succeeds.
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