Photos by Lourdes Espinoza
Surrounded by the bustling traffic of major freeways is Proyecto Jardín, an urban garden that blossomed 13 years ago on top of empty land behind White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights.
In a community with little green space, this garden represents an oasis for many who live in Boyle Heights. Visitors enter the urban garden through a decorated stairway that leads to young trees, soil, brick pathways and various flower bushes as well as seasonal plots or herbs grown for the purpose of healing.
The ‘jardín,’ as many call it, offers a chance for community members to learn more about an alternative food system, by growing its own organic produce.
Over the years, community members have collaborated together creating a vibrant landscape while establishing a connection to their food.
Through the Food Growers Collective (FGC), many have grown countless greens, vegetables and fruit trees at the ‘jardín.’
Interest in communities being able to accessibly grow their own produce has allowed for them to host group clean-ups, harvest and accept compost donations, including newspaper scraps, old produce, fruit peels, cornstalks and coffee grounds. Compost donations are accepted every Wednesday.
With the help of FGC, Proyecto Jardín has been able to rotate different types of citrus trees, leafy flowers and several seasonal vegetables year-round. Rows of mustards, kales, romaine lettuce and spinach were abundant during this turn of the season.
Private plots are not assigned to people but rather, individuals select the crops and chores they want to devote themselves to for four months.
FGC member Andrea Borges says she enjoys eating out of the garden on a daily basis and advocates for a healthier future through her participation.
“I feel really connected to this garden. I see the effects of this garden on the people who come here and I think it’s important to the youth,” says Borges. “I just want to help create a healthier community.”
“And that’s what Proyecto Jardín is all about,” says Executive Director Irene Peña.
The garden’s mission involves community building, good food, physical activity and use of traditional healing arts.
“Growing food at Proyecto Jardín is about growing collective action”¦.food is a communal experience from seed to tortilla,” says Peña.
Yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes are rotated occasionally on a platform set up in the middle of the garden, surrounded by herbs such as sage, lavender, mint and lemongrass.
Residents are free to dig in each season and plant accordingly, and may purchase herbs and produce at a low price.
Proyecto Jardín and Mujeres De Maiz will collaborate for an Earth Day event this Sunday, April 21 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. This will include a drum and song opening ceremony, medicinal herb lesson, Zumba, children’s yoga and health and wellness workshops as well as a performance by Thee Commons.
Dogs are not allowed on the premises for hygienic reasons.
Proyecto Jardín is located on 1718 Bridge St. Los Angeles, CA. 90033.
For more information and for operating hours, visit their Facebook Page here.