Semillas de Esperanza by Esperanza Intern, Grecia Reyes
“To change a community, you have to change the composition of the soil…we are the soil”— (Ron Finley,urban farmer in South LA)
Residents and Volunteers at Villa Esperanza’s first planting session.
Walking through the streets of South Los Angeles, one comes across an overabundance of food chains and liquor stores, offering men, women, and children unhealthy foods. The food is often fried and overcooked, in addition to products carrying high levels of fat, sugar, salts, carbohydrates, and oil. In South Los Angeles, the inaccessibility to healthy nutritious food and access to supermarkets are a constant problem for the working class. Residents often shop at convenience stores, where fresh foods selection is limited or overpriced.
Eating can be a spiritual act that connects people to the earth and to those that cultivate and produce the food we eat. It can also send out an invitation for community engagement and social change. The act of eating conscientiously can call for the breaking of geographic lines that result from economic vulnerability and systems of power that control the food industry. The families within our affordable housing communities have voiced their desire to grow and sustain their own foods. At Esperanza, we understand that eating justly has to do with the active practice of eating responsibly and creating a sustainable food system that serves all communities, disregarding location and social-economic status.
Semillas de Esperanza is a community driven gardening project bringing fresh food to our families!
Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope), led by Esperanza’s Gardening Project Coordinator, Sandy Navarro is an initiative to increase community access to fresh fruits and vegetables by means of planting edible gardens in South Central Los Angeles. Over the past few months, Sandy has been working on mobilizing community residents to discuss the development of the gardens and connecting them with the necessary resources to ensure project sustainability. The first garden has already been initiated at Villa Esperanza (Villa) as a communal garden in addition to assigned garden boxes.
Gregorio Puga is also known as El Abuelo (the grandfather) of the community, has been a resident at Villa for over 20 years. Throughout the day, you can find him either amending soils or watering and nurturing his plants. He has used all of the spaces available in Villa to create small edible gardens. Abuelo is originally from Yucatan, Mexico. Here he worked as a jardinero (gardener) for many years in the wealthy neighborhoods of Los Angeles and southern California communities. For him, gardening is about living a healthier life style, saving money, learning to appreciate what the land produces in order to re-distribute it to the community.
Abuelo reminds us that gardening is about our relationship with the land, acknowledging that, “God created the land and put humans into a garden.” Abuelo sees this as a lesson on how to be working stewards; because the land produces life and sustains us, but we must be willing in turn to cultivate and sustain the land. It is for this reason that gardening calls for thoughtfulness, gentleness, and justice
Be a part of our Semillas Project by volunteering in our next planting or workshop session. For more information on how you can get involved in our Semillas Project, please contact our Project coordinator:
Sandy Navarro, Gardening Project Coordinator Email: Sandy@esperanzacommunityhousing,org.
You can also support the garden project by making a donation of plants, trees and gardening supplies or funding to sustain our gardens, donations welcome