Between 1994 and 2004, Los Angeles’ South Central Community Garden, also known as the South Central Farm, grew to be the largest community garden in the United States, measuring 14 acres. Three hundred fifty families grew food in this garden, which was owned by the city, but occupied by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. These families were selected because their household income fell under the poverty level determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2001, legal battles began over ownership of the land, and, in 2003, the Food Bank was forced to give up the garden.
The families who farmed the land didn’t give up the fight, though. Organized by Tezozomoc, winner of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Growing Green Award for Food Justice Leader, and other members of the garden, the South Central Community Garden kept fighting for the land and secured another few years before finally being evicted in 2006. That year, Tezozomoc and the other South Central Farmers formed a new 85-acre co-op, the South Central Farmers Health and Education Fund (SCFHEF) in Buttonwillow, CA, about a two-hour-drive north of Los Angeles.
The new co-op is 100 percent organic, and encourages the members of its community-supported agriculture (CSA) program to unite around healthy eating. The organization is especially dedicated to social justice and supporting communities of color and low-income populations. SCFHEF partners with other organizations to promote economic development on the community level. Additionally, SCFHEF helps new farmers establish farms, facilitates culturally sensitive farmers’ markets, and provides CSAs in low-income Los Angeles communities, along with a number of other community- and food-centric projects.
Tezozomac has done incredible work to bring fresh food to underserved communities, as well as to empower community members to begin their own farms or other businesses.