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Meet the Florence-Firestone Community Garden

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The Florence Firestone Community Garden is a large community garden in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The garden is about 4 years old; founded in 2011 in a collaboration between Los Angeles Community Garden Council and Los Angeles County’s second district. Around 75 community gardeners tend 112 plots spread across two parcels of land a half block apart. The majority of the gardeners are first-generation immigrants who grew up connected to farming.  Now, surrounded by the steel and pavement of Los Angeles, they value the opportunity to reconnect to their roots and participate in growing healthy, fresh food.

Gardener Esteban Ortiz is the former president of the Florence Firestone Garden Executive Committee, and continues to be a very active member of the garden. Esteban explains that, when presented with the logistical challenge of so many gardeners split between two areas, the garden leadership created a system where each gardener is asked to participate equally on garden upkeep.  Esteban explains that there is always something for volunteers to do: clean up common areas, pick up trash, repairs, or garden improvements such as adding mulch or building shade shelters.

The Florence Firestone garden leadership team has successfully organized gardeners into “work groups” to maximize participation from each member. There is one “garden master” per parcel on the Executive Committee.  The garden masters divide the gardeners into six work groups.  Each month, they assign at least one group to volunteer in the garden; which means that gardeners volunteer twice a year on average. Gardeners attend the monthly gardeners’ meeting where the committee announces the group working that month.   Esteban calls this approach “management by conviction” rather than by authority.  The system is organized so that each gardener contributes to the improvement of the whole garden, and each is asked to help for the benefit of all.

By Eileen Zwiers, LACGC Board Member

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