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Plant Chat: Diana Campos-Jimenez, LA Community Garden Council

Sharon Palmer

It’s a pleasure to have Diana Campos-Jimenez, Programs Manager for Los Angeles Community Garden Council, on my Plant Chat today. Diana was raised in the San Fernando Valley, where she attended CSUN and received a BA in Sociology. She began working with Youth Speak Collective, a non-profit in Pacoima aimed at providing free services to youth at risk. During her time at Youth Speak, she managed 3 programs, Club Futbolito, Visual Arts program and Special Projects. With the help of the youth, they led a Water and Energy conservation campaign and many beautification projects. After her time at YSC, she moved onto Educare Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on after school programs. With her skills as a youth and community organizer, she assisted ESP and Lincoln High School. She led successful after school events and trips concerning issues such as environmental policy, bullying and team building. Now that she is with LACGC, she hopes to use her skills in an effective way to benefit her community. Her motto is: Effort is a reflection of interest. Continue reading to learn more about Diana’s work and passion for community gardens. Read more about the benefits of community gardens here.

In what ways have you seen positive change stem from implementing a community garden?

I’ve seen tighter communities and better communication between members. There’s more of an effort to share, like recipes and vegetables. The garden promotes exercise and physical activities in a safe space.

How might having a community garden make a positive impact in areas where there is a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables?

It helps enlighten and empower those who know they deserve space like a community garden. There’s a sense of appreciation and ownership. Especially if they are aware that they live in a food dessert area, so when it comes to advocating for more green spaces, we have a support system, because they know what it is to not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

What people or populations benefit from having a community garden?

Everyone benefits from a community garden! But from the 42 community gardens we manage, the populations vary depending on the site of the garden. For example, in Mariposa-Nabi, a garden located in what is known as Koreatown, you’ll find the population to be mostly women of Korean and Guatemalan decent. If you visit Pasadena Community Garden, the population there is mostly white middle-aged couples. In addition, in Stanford Avalon, a garden located in South LA, the majority of the gardeners are Mexican-American ranging from 30-70 years of age.

What are the steps to obtaining a plot in a community garden?

Every garden is different; most gardens require gardeners to live in the area, contribute a set amount of volunteer hours, then they get an application which asks for contact information, family size and reasons they want to belong to a garden. Some gardens require payment for the plot, which can range from $5 a month to $25 a month.

What services are provided in a plot at a community garden?

Most of our gardens have communal gardening tools, access to water (hoses or watering canteens) compost, soil, and every so often plants. Usually each garden has appointed a ‘Master Gardener’ who can teach gardeners best practices to attending their plots.

What are some tips for beginners at gardening in community gardening?

Grow what you know and do not over water. Tend weekly to your plot and participate with the communal areas.

What trends do you see with community gardens moving into the future?

Composting regularly seems to be popular at a lot of our gardens.

Are community gardens suitable for any community?  What are the pros and cons?

Yes, CGs are sustainable, they require a dedicated team of people, which can easily be replaced should they leave. We offer trainings for gardens that have had a recent change in leadership. Pros: Green spaces for communities, intergenerational gardeners passing down knowledge. Cons: Funding and spaces are required. Also, continual support from the community is needed.

What challenges have you faced in implementing or maintaining a community garden?

Land leases always change; so long-term agreements are encouraged. Water rates increases have affected a lot of our gardens, advocacy for policy change is needed. Funding is also an issue, because gardens require money for any immediate repairs or leaks.

 

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