By C.J. SALGADO
EAST LOS ANGELES — Four-year-old Emilio ran back and forth between the water faucet and his garden plot at Saturday’s grand opening of the Eastmont Community Garden. Like a seasoned gardener, he kept busy filling a watering can to quench the dry soil where he’d previously planted strawberries, tomatoes, and chili plants. More so, he proudly pointed to tomatoes already ripening on the vine as well as the cilantro and carrot seeds he would soon plant.
With only about six months since construction began on this very first community garden in East L.A., local families, organizers, state and county elected officials, and even mariachis, celebrated its grand opening. The 6,480-square foot garden located at the Eastmont Community Center is a project of the Little Green Fingers program of the L.A. Conservation Corps.
According to Kea Duggan, Marketing Director for the LA Conservation Corps,. the garden is funded through March 2017 by First Five LA, a child advocacy and grant-making organization. Now that the local leadership of the garden has been established and local families have been assigned the plots to grow their own produce, it’s mostly a self-sustaining effort, although some support and maintenance will continue by organizers.
Laura Torres, one of the garden’s leaders, said there’s been a lot of interest in the garden, so that there are no more plots to assign. Yes, there is a waiting list, too. But, families must agree to attend regular meetings and take care of their plots, else risk being put “on probation,” with the plot being re-assigned if they fail to keep up with their duties.
One of the favorite activities of the event was a cooking demonstration by Monica Perez, aka, “Chef Veganmoni.” She was really excited when asked to lead a healthy food demo aimed to encourage young children to eat more greens. She prepared spinach and kale salad with mango bits, sunflower seeds, and garlic drizzled with lemon vinaigrette. Veganmoni likes to prepare easy, delicious recipes that children would enjoy. Kids love mangos and so this was perfect.
“I love the impact that this community garden has on children,” she said. “Young children enjoy nature, and when they witness where their food is grown- they are more likely to try something new. This is a perfect green space where kids can engage with their parents, community members, and other kids and to learn from each other.”
With a delicious and fresh bounty of fruits and vegetables already being harvested by little green fingers, there’s little doubt that this community will take care of its own garden and enjoy the benefits of fresh produce.
Community members who may be interested in participating in the garden may contact the Eastmont Community Center at (323) 726-7998.
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