Keeping a cleaning schedule at the garden is of paramount importance to HdV these days. The quicker we get the land cleaned up- the quicker we can start growing on it! This week the work days were all about weed control and prepping the site for composting. Upon arrival it was easy to see that the land was being consumed by giant weeds. Our task then was to pull out these monsters and gather them in big piles to dry in the sun. We plan to dry the weeds out and use them later as helpers in our composting efforts.
While pulling the weeds we were surprised by the number of wild edible plants that we found on the site! This particular plant is really special! It is a type of sagebrush- a coastal sage scrub plant that is native to this region (Western coast- Baja and California) and no where else! WOW! It was such a treat to find this one and we will definitely keep it safe.
Whether you prefer to call chayote- chuchu, cho-cho, pear squash, mirliton, or pipinola one thing remains the same- these members of the gourd family are delicious! Plus they are packed with vitamin C and amino acids- so they’re good for you! Last week we decided to plant a handful of these tasty treasures to make sure they are a part of the garden. However, the problem with chayote- like their cousins’ watermelon, cucumber, and squash- is that they need plenty of room to grow. When thinking about how we could incorporate them into our garden plan we decided it would be great to grow them along the fence surrounding the garden. This will allow the chayote vines to grow like crazy sprawling along and intertwining with hundreds of feet of fencing and provide a beautiful green background for our gardeners.
After weeks of watering and tending to our first harvest our vegetables are in full bloom! Our mini greenhouse surprised us with tons of little green seedlings (more than 500 in the first batch) that we decided to plant another batch!! Now that the land agreement has been finalized and we’re certain that these plants will have a home… why not? J And it looks like our first batch is going to be delicious… as we’ve seen proof that caterpillars are enjoying them already! Not to be outshined- our vermicompost is also doing FANTASTIC! We started with 25 worms four months ago and now have over 1000!! Making it one of the most fertile soils on the planet! WOW!
Keeping with the positive energy around us we decided to do some spring cleaning on the land as well! Our first official clean up day was on Saturday the 13th. A few members from HdV got together to collect trash and debris off the land, move large rocks and concrete off the property, and remove rubble and waste. The crew worked hard for hours…but there is a lot more to do. The site used to be old houses that were bought up by the city and demolished years ago. Unfortunately some of the remains from the houses was never cleaned up and is still on the property. Looks like there will be many ‘spring cleaning’ days in our near future :)
On April 6th Huerta del Valle members joined Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) on one of their neighborhood tours lead by community members and organizers at their office. We learned a lot about South East Los Angeles (Hyde Park, Boyle Heights, Willmington, Vernon, San Pedro and other cities) and some of the ways communities there are working to create healthier environments.
The tour started with a workshop lead by the CBE staff featuring some history and maps of the area. We learned a lot from this and took good notes to help us in creating our own tour.
The CBE Staff then showed us their neighborhood. They shared with us how their neighborhood grew and developed into what we see today. Then they showed us around pointing out a lot of places where polluting industry is making their neighborhoods less healthy and is polluting everyone's air, soil, and water. They also shared with us the ways that industry has changed their neighborhood drastically, but without consulting the community on their opinions. Time and again when the community was consulted they prefered things like green spaces, parks, and schools over polluting industries. It only takes asking to find out.
Many small businesses are closed down due to the recession and the cities have responded by bringing in Wal-Mart, Target, and other big name companies even though the community may not be for it. We saw one of these large companies, central metal, where many community members were being polluted by metal dust and had to stand up to question the practices of this big company. We were told stories that community members could taste coins in their mouths from all of the dust.
The LA river is completely covered in concrete in South East LA. The tour guides mentioned to us that further north there is a much nicer part of the river, but down in South East LA it is pure concrete. The guides also told us about a giant mound of concrete rubble that they had to organize to move because it was causing cancer. Some of that concrete was used to build this new rail system to bring more goods from the ports out east to distribution centers like the ones in Ontario. Though it was promised that this would decrease truck traffic the price of train delivery went up and so more trucks are used anyway.
At each stop they taught us to recognize toxic facilities in our environment using our senses of smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing. You can read signs like these that tell you from 1-4 how toxic a facility is (4 is the most dangerous). Exide recycles car batteries and is so toxic that if there was a fire- water could not be used to put it out.
We can use our ears to hear how many trucks and trains go by making loud noise and put diesel particulate into the air. We can use our nose to smell toxins like the ones coming from the animal rendering plant where they dispose of dead animal bodies. Unfortunately this makes the entire place stink and toxifies the soil.
We learned that schools can also be toxic because they are often built on cheap land that has not been cleaned up. Many schools are built on brown-fields like this one where chromium-6 was dumped for many years before the school was built. Conveniently there was a big chromed-out truck parked right in front of the school.
We also got a glimpse of where 40% of the consumer goods we have in the US come from. The port of LA and Long Beach bring in products from around the world and distribute them as far as Chicago and New York. Thousands of Diesel trucks pass this site everyday many heading for places in the IE to drop cargo. Billions of dollars of revenue are made from this site, while millions of pounds of pollution are also generated. We learned that the folks who are making money from the ports do not choose to live near them because they are too polluted but some people do live there.
At the port we saw many oil refineries like BP and Conoco Phillips and their smoke stacks. We learned that the higher the stacks are the more polluting the exhaust that comes out of them is. We saw over and over that working class communities of color are affected most by this pollution and it tends to follow them into their neighborhoods. We heard that CBE and other organizations have worked with these communities to create alternatives to this by organizing, suing polluting facilities, doing research and surveys of community opinions, and working with youth to educate the community about these issues that make health very challenging.
At the end of the day it really is all about the youth who are growing up in this environment. How do we make alternatives? What would a really healthy and sustainable environment look like? What does a healthy school and healthy neighborhood look like and how can we word towards it?
Keeping our values as the center/ core of our community of practice is something that all the members of HdV take pride in because they are guiding words and principles that we came up with collectively as a group (at our first community meeting- last November!) and feel strongly that by upholding them all members, the organization, and most importantly the community will benefit!
Our values are…
**Respect... The most important thing in any relationship. Recognizingpeople who are taking leadership and trusting their leadership knowing we can all be leaders. Respecting those who have made strong commitments to leadership while demanding respect from any and everyone. Keep open communication with your neighbors and community members.
Ensuring that the core values of the garden are the foundation that help usmake decisions, which motivates us to work together, to meet our obligations, and support the project in order for it to be successful. Keeping in mind that when you are in the garden we are all a family and everybody’s actions will be a reflection of HDV as a whole. Holding each other accountable to follow all the rules and make sure our values guide our actions.
Taking the time to be familiar with all of the HdV core values. Surrendering yourself to the project in order to make it reality. Finding ways no matter the challenge to make the garden successful.
Finding the balance with people and the land. You need humility to have harmony. Be humble in your actions. Treating everybody that works in the garden as your equal. Accepting people as they are- as well as respecting the physical and mental abilities of everyone in the community. Making sure not to criticize or offend others.
Using more than just your ears to hear whenever a member of the community is talking ... also opening your mind to new ideas, keeping open arms to support others, and keeping an open heart to empathize with our neighbors.
Keeping open communication with all members of the community. Allowing everybody to express their views onissues pertaining to the garden such as land decisions, our responsibilities, work, or resources so that nobody feels like they don’t have a voice. Allowing others to express themselves, to speak of their differences, histories and experiences so that we can all support and encourage each other. Remembering our mission statement and core values- and making sure that we are constantly discussing both of them to ensure we are always moving towards the same goal.
Doesn’t necessarily stop at physical- but remember the emotional and spiritual. Knowing that you can count on members for help but also know that they are counting on you for your help. Giving each other a hand whenever it is necessary. Cooperating with one another with the ideology that we have the same goals and we want to see our neighbors succeed in their projects.
A burning passion that we have inside of ourselves to make a difference in our community. A feeling that motivates usor encourages us to help our neighbors, our friends, and our families by introducing them to a new way of life, a healthier life, a happy and content life
It is embedded in harmony. Recalling that we are all working as a group. Seeing everyone in the community as equals- whether in the ideas, intelligence, and their dedication to make the garden a success. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes, trying to look at problematic situations through different perspectives. Taking the time to get to know each other.
Doing good in all your actions. Doing good by all residents of the area as well as the other participants of the garden. Respecting the community and most importantly the earth. Recalling that words are very powerful, and promising touse words that support our values. Using respectful language.
Giving everyone enough time to talk and express their ideas fully. Taking moments of reflection to see if it is the right time to share what you would say. Examining the feelings we have inside and respecting them. Remembering the importance of working out conflicts in a calm and respectable manner in order to harmony in balance.
The way we see love
Recently HdV added a new member to our automobile family… a monster sized Chevy 3500 stake bed work truck! We purchased the truck from Tom Barney and K-12 Books… Tom used to transport school textbooks for K-12 (for over 20 years!) but ended up selling the truck now that digital education is taking over in the classrooms and he doesn’t have a need for a large textbook hauling machine. At the garden we will help the truck continue with its community serving lifestyle by using it to help with composting and various other farm needs.
Recientemente HdV añadido un nuevo miembro a nuestra familia automóvil... una monstruosa camioneta de trabajo Chevy 3500! Compramos la camioneta de Tom Barney y K-12 Books. Tom utilizaba la camioneta para transportar libros de texto escolares para K-12 (desde hace más de 20 años!), Pero terminó vendiendo la camioneta ya que la educación digital se está apoderando mas en las escuelas y él no sentía la necesidad de tener un camión gigante para transportar solo unos pocos de libros. En el jardín el camión continuar con su estilo de vida sirviendo a la comunidad- ayudándonos con las necesidades agrícolas de compuesto y varios otros trabajos.
April 5th 2013 has become a day of monumental importance to Huerta del Valle! After months of negotiations, sorting out final details, and excruciating “waiting” periods with the city of Ontario… our land use agreement was signed and finalized!!! Woo Hoo!
It’s a wonderful feeling for all of us at HdV to see how an idea that was thought of years ago, was so eagerly embraced by the community, then shaped and transformed on so many different levels to meet their need, has now finally become a reality that is certain to change lives.
Huerta del Valle officially has a place to call “home”:)The land agreement will grant HdV access to the land for the next 10 years with a five year renewal plan option… although we plan on being there for much longer! Over the next couple weeks the 3 acre piece of land located behind Bon View Park in South Ontario is getting ready to undergo a major transformation- first the irrigation will be installed, then the fence will be put up, and finally the residents will be able to let their green thumbs work their magic! This is just the beginning!
Throughout this long process there have been so many individuals and organizations that have believed in the vision of HdV, dedicated their time and efforts towards our cause, offered supported and/or advice, and helped make our dream a reality.
The city of Ontario, Jerry Blum, Karen Thompson, Rudy Zeledon, and the entire City of Ontario Planning Dept, Kaiser Permanente, Carrie Hempel, Anees Naime, John Bridge, and UCI School of Law, Pitzer College, Susan Philips, Pitzerstudent volunteers, The Wheelhouse, Ontario community volunteers, all anybody else who gave us a chance. We could never say ‘thank you’ enough to all of you… but we’ll definitely try J THANK YOU!
And for anybody out there who is looking for information about setting up their own land use agreement with the city- please contact us! We would love to share our experience and contacts with you to help your organization expand as well!