Video: Gardens That Teach

Gardens can be many things.

When we planted our first Teaching Garden, we were thinking about helping kids connect with the earth in a way that would get them excited about eating fresh foods. Soon after our first success, the American Heart Association adopted us, and we are now thriving with more than 100 Teaching Gardens planted nationwide and growing.

Twelve of those Gardens benefit Los Angeles public schools with another 10 Gardens scheduled later this year, thanks in large part to a deep-rooted commitment from The California Endowment as part of its Health Happens Here initiative. All of these Teaching Gardens have been planted in what are sometimes called food desert communities where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain.

Teaching Gardens are designed to introduce children to vegetables on their own turf as away to influence eating habits. We've discovered that the Gardens can impact children in many other ways; provide a safe place for reflection; a new and easier way to make friends and be engaged in community service; hands-on experience that reinforce commitment and patience.

Our gardens are growing, but more needs to be done to change the food system in these communities. Meet Ron Finley. He believes in food forests, not food deserts. A native of South Los Angeles, Ron has transformed a useless, scrubby parkway strip into a lush edible garden that is helping to feed his neighbors. He's been dubbed a renegade gardener who is gaining the attention of Angelinos and city officials. Take a look at this short film to see what I mean.

After his garden was thriving, Ron received a citation from the City's Department of Public Works and was told to chop it down. But thanks to the help from many others working on expanding urban agriculture in Los Angeles, he fought back and eventually received special dispensation from the city. Ron and his friends haven't stopped there. They are pushing for a new ordinance to make it easier for urban gardeners to legally grow food on public parkways.

Bringing people closer to the creation of their food; giving access to whole, fresh foods at fair prices; working together to make our communities garden-friendly; are all ways we can positively impact our health and improve our environment. They are one and the same really.

With a little creativity, vision and willingness to get our hands dirty, we can remake spaces defined by asphalt and dead grass into productive places of beauty. We can grow good things and nurture the earth in a way that changes us in many unexpected ways.

-- Kelly Meyer

TO LEARN MORE about the food movement in Los Angeles and how to get involved visit the Los Angeles Food Policy Council: