EarthWorks Enterprises is a nonprofit grassroots organization that strives to enhance the health and economic security of youth, low-income families and other residents of South El Monte and Whittier through organic sustainable agriculture.
We employ youth to help grow and sell organic produce to the community. In addition, youth develop communication, leadership and job skills, and learn about nutrition and the environmental benefits of sustainable agriculture. The community benefits from having a local source of affordable, nutritious organic produce.
The farm itself is large, especially for one worked by volunteers, and there were crops growing on about 3/4 of the land. Farmer Bob, who is the farm manager and a third-generation farmer, said he has big plans to improve the farm and grow more crops. He seemed to think the farm was unimpressive, but, having been to a number of nonprofit urban farms in the past, I thought this one looked pretty darn good.
Merete, Rachel and I were put to work transplanting leeks, kale, lettuce and onions into raised rows. It was fun and fairly simple, so we were able to chat while we worked. Of course, I was deeply jealous of all the happy, healthy plants growing all around me, considering my own pathetic home garden. But, Farmer Bob is a professional, after all. Perhaps someday I'll grow okra and eggplants as nice as the ones at EarthWorks.
When lunchtime arrived, a group of chefs provided all the volunteers with a cooking demonstration that was supposed to show us how easy it was to make a tasty, healthy meal using fresh veggies from the farm. Unfortunately, most of the people in the crowd of volunteers were not interested in the demo, and when lunch meat sandwiches and bags of chips appeared, they all flocked to eat those instead of the salad and stir-fry the chefs were cooking. It was a little depressing, and a good reminder that you can't change people's habits overnight. If these teenagers were unfamiliar with kale and okra and fresh ginger, they probably weren't going to try it without some persuading. It seemed like the kids who actually worked at the farm every week were more into the veggies, though, so EarthWorks does seem to be succeeding in helping those kids learn about healthy eating. Perhaps they'll persuade their friends.
On the bright side, EarthWorks also provides free boxes of produce to 30 local low-income families every week. So, the kids in those families will get used to eating fresh, healthy vegetables and hopefully develop a taste for them. And, the EarthWorks produce stand,open every Saturday from 10am-12pm, provides people in the area with inexpensive fresh produce that they probably can't find in stores. I bought some kale, okra and lettuce from the stand, and it was all very tasty.
To wrap up, the Good Girls had a good time helping out on the farm last weekend, and I think we'll go back. They welcome outside volunteers every Saturday morning, and there's no need to pre-register. So, if you live in LA and you're looking for a nice way to spend your morning helping a good cause, you should check it out.
* The farm is due South of Pasadena. It actually wasn't a very long drive from my house, especially on Saturday morning when the freeways were clear.