Hope Grows At The Once 'Magical' Site Of LA's South Central Farm
The South Central Farm at 41st and Alameda streets was once considered the largest urban farm in the country.
It was developed in 1994, in the wake of the 1992 L.A. Riots. But those farmers were evicted in 2006 when local developer Ralph Horowitz acquired the property.
More than 40 protesters were arrested during the eviction. Some even climbed trees in an attempt to keep them from being chopped down.
Since then, the lot has remained empty, though plans have long loomed to construct industrial buildings on the once lush 14 acres.
But earlier this month, urban farm advocates filed a lawsuit against the city and PIMA Alameda Partners, a clothing company planning to build an industrial park on the land. The advocates say that development plans are in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. As a result, a court order was issued, and the city must review how the new structures will affect traffic, which has given new hope to urban farm advocates.
In a presentation for the proposed project, PIMA Alameda Partners said it would "address the most critical needs" in the community, which they defined as "jobs and economic development." They said the focus will be on creating local jobs with industry-specific skill development to revitalize the South L.A. neighborhood.
One of the opponents of the project is Alberto Tlatoa, who worked with his family in the community garden as a kid. He's now an outreach coordinator at the South Central Farmers Restoration Committee.
Back when it was a community garden, the land was divided into 360 plots, which were cultivated by 330 families. The plot of land Tlatoa's family once owned is a very different place now.
"I see a lot of trash here. There was no trash before," Tlatoa said during a trip to the site with Take Two's A Martinez. "When the South Central Farm was in its glory, the sound of the trains and traffic died out. It was just birds, wind. It was just being in a different place, in an urban setting."
Part of what made this plot so special to Tlatoa was his family's legacy. His father was a farmer in Puebla, Mexico. And Tlatoa said his dad was eager to pass on those skills.
My father sprouted four peach trees," Tlatoa said. (Because I had) four siblings. . . (My dad) was like, 'You're in charge of this peach tree. Make sure you water it, you prune it, this is how you do it.' It was just magical."
His family's garden was also filled with Mesoamerican greens like papalo, pipicha and chipilín.
Tlatoa and his family tended their plot for about a decade, until Horowitz, the developer, acquired the land and the farmers were evicted in 2006. Tlatoa was 18 years old.
"When I witnessed the bulldozing of the South Central Farm. . . and the tears of the farmers, that was an attack against the community saying, 'you cannot be you.' Tlatoa said. "That's why I'm fighting. Because my community deserves justice."
Tlatoa and his team continue to challenge the development through community outreach. If they regain control of the land, they plan to utilize the space as both a community garden and park.
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