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South Central Farm/report back
Brief report back from the South Central Farm. I was there this past weekend.
South Central Farm Report Back
It’s hard to describe the beauty of the South Central Farm. It’s not just 14 acres of food and medicinal plants and flowers, but a community of farmers and allied activists who have come together to defend urban land that has been reclaimed and blessed with organic life. The farm is the last region of greenery in a vast mixed residential/industrial district of LA, and it’s a place of connection with mother earth and traditions of indigenous cultivation that are so threatened by globalization. I talked with a woman who was planting beans native to her small village in Peru. The farm brings the know-how of sustainable farming to our polluted urban scene, and it is the example of how we can save this planet from the corporate-industrial-petrol profiteers who govern mass food production and distribution. This farm is all about social and environmental justice through the peace and joy of gardening. It is a strong stand against anti-immigrant politics. It’s a celebration of local empowerment and Indian traditions.
For several weeks the movement to save the land from destruction by a private developer had escalated. Hundreds of people were camping out each night on the farm in defiance of the sheriff’s eviction order—and with Hollywood celebrities, farmers and allied activists struggling side by side, it seemed that the farm had a chance. And then one week ago, the police invaded, violently enforcing the unjust eviction order. There were arrests, and then there were bulldozers. The bulldozer is the physical manifestation of oppression—as much in Palestine as in South Central.
Now the people have been locked out of their farm. Wide swaths of the garden lie trampled and ripped apart. The plants are wilting from lack of water. There are hired private security guards who patrol the premises and eat the fruit that had once been carefully tended. But the resistance continues. The celebrities may have left, but the farmers remain.
A faithful few camp out on the sidewalk outside the gates, watchful for any further attempt to wreck the farm. And there is a nightly vigil, with drumming and chanting and candles, and a walk around the perimeter of the farm to reestablish the zone of life and spirit in this space. For now the efforts have paid off. The bulldozers have been called back, and city council members are trying to figure out a way to bring the developer back to the bargaining table, so that a deal could be worked out to have the land returned to its rightful occupants. And in early July there will be another court case to question the legality of the sale of the land to the private developer. This past weekend folks started to chip apart the broken concrete sidewalks surrounding the farm, establishing new planting beds. Trees, flowers and herbs were laid into the ground. It felt so good to use a shovel to excavate ground that had been sealed over with concrete, to weed out rusted bolts and shards of glass, and to lay new plants into the earth. If the people cannot go into their garden, then the garden will flow out into the community. But there is still hope that the chains will be taken off the gates.
Now is the time more than ever for volunteers to go down to the South Central Farm in solidarity with the farmers. There is nothing that the city of LA needs less than another warehouse in a district that is already teaming with abandoned warehouses, and there is nothing that the world needs more than a community garden like the South Central Farm to bring diverse people together to share knowledge of sustainable farming, to produce food and medicinals, to spread oxygen into the air and draw in honeybees. If you want to go down, check out LA Indymedia (http://www.la.indymedia.org) for links and details. I’ll be going back soon too.