The Home Growers Circle: Real people with a passion to grow real food

Ethel & Bill Robert Charmaine & Brian Brandon Nancy Lewis & Tara Malika & Donny Andy & Susanna Craig & Gary Warren & Lovejoy

Ethel & Bill / Los Feliz

For as long as I can remember we've always had fruits and vegetables growing in our family garden. It was a given we would have strawberries for breakfast in the summer, as well as apricots, peaches and plums, some kind of squash in the autumn and avocados in winter -- and all types of herbs year round.

My father grew up in Pennsylvania. He lived in Pittsburgh but spent summers on his aunt's farm outside Reading, on the other side of the state. They had chickens, geese, ducks, pigs, cows and always a horse or two. They also grew all their own vegetables and fruits, which his aunt would can so they could have them throughout the winter.

My mother grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she became a member of Mr. Levine's 4H Club when she was in high school; the only one in NYC at that time. Since the war was on, they had a Victory Garden at the high school and grew Swiss chard. The 4H Club members also wandered through Brooklyn learning the names of the trees that grew in the neighborhoods.

Today, my parents have 15 fruit trees and grow a variety of tomatoes and peppers, zucchini, fennel, arugula, kale, red leaf lettuce, mesclun and numerous herbs and spices. (I know I'm probably forgetting something.) In between tending his spices I asked my father a few questions about his gardening.

What is your favorite gardening success story?
I planted wild arugula and it grew like wildfire. It has completely taken over the area where it originally was. I love wild arugula so that's not a problem.

Is there anything youíve always wanted to plant but havenít been able to?
I tried planting cantaloupe, but it didn't work out. I didn't have the right soil.

What's the secret to growing good fruits and vegetables?
Taking care of them. I inspect them regularly -- literally every day -- and I use homemade compost.

What's your garden currently looking like for Fall/Winter?
It's the end of the tomatoes and peppers season, so I'm waiting for the avocados to ripen and looking forward to pruning fruit trees. I'm also going to be planting French carrots and butter lettuce.

- Shannon McClatchey, November 2010

Ways to support
urban farming
in Los Angeles

Community partners have stepped forward with ways you can support local growers:

We know how much everyone in this city loves the movies. Have you seen this one? The Garden is an Academy Award nominated documentary that tells the story of urban farmers who struggle against land developers to keep their community farm in South Central Los Angeles alive. This film offers a revealing look at the challenges of urban farming in a megacity once known for its agricultural output. The director of the film, Scott Hamilton Kennedy, is a Silver Lake resident and he has offered to not only sell DVDs of the film at a 10% discount, but also grant 10% of proceeds to support the certification fees of future participants of the Home Growers Circle. Buy a DVD and help us build support for an eleventh urban microfarmer. Maybe we'll have to ask one of the microfarmers to raise some corn so that we can make some home-grown movie popcorn. Click here to order a DVD and support the Home Growers Circle. Remember to use promotional code FORAGE.