Ocean View Farms

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The entrance to Ocean View Farms is heralded by this modest, relatively inconspicuous sign.
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The gardens offer a haven from city life.
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An avid urban farmer sows a summer crop
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Apartments border hardy produce plots.
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Reap the rewards: a homegrown harvest!

If you wander around in West Los Angeles, you might come
upon a sight that’s sure to warm any back-to-the-lander’s
heart. There, on a hillside boasting a view (on clear days)
of the Pacific, is a replica of the traditional household
vegetable plot expanded a hundredfold!

During the winter months, Ocean View Farms announces its
presence only by an unobtrusive sign at the entrance to the
Little League field which adjoins it. In the spring and
summer, however, the land shouts a different
story: The yellow green of fresh produce and the brilliance
of flowers proclaim that this isn’t just another open space
awaiting condominium conversion.

A Passel of Private Plots

Since the urban agricultural experiment got underway in
1977, Ocean View Farms has offered area residents an
opportunity to cultivate more than just the hanging plants
in their apartment windows. Plots are currently leased for
$14 per year, and the gardeners report that the
soil–although it’s a bit sandy that close to the
sea–can be very productive once it has been
properly rebuilt.

According to the current OVF chairman (George Dodds, who’s
been involved with the project since its inception), the
idea originated in meetings between representatives of
CETA, the Los Angeles mayor’s office, and other
governmental and community organizations.

“We had long periods that were all talk and no
action,” he said of the nebulous beginnings common to so
many grassroots community projects. After months of
frustration, though, some suitable unused land was located. But–since the area in question had a view of
the coast, good drainage, and access to the
“amenities” of city life–many thought that OVF (and
its Little League neighbor) wouldn’t last long before it
fell prey to the machinations of urban developers.

And as a matter of fact, the property is surrounded on all
sides by housing, with apartments and condos smack up
against its southern boundary. But the urban sprawl has
been stayed, in this case, by the landowner: the L.A.
Department of Water and Power (which originally planned to
put a reservoir on the site, a project whose
completion now seems unlikely).

A Healing Agent

Today–on land donated by city departments that had
idle acres under their jurisdiction–there are similar
projects underway (each with its own organizers) in other
parts of Los Angeles. So the urban farmers of OVF, isolated
as they are, are not completely alone in their
determination not to allow city life to divorce them from
the land that we all depend upon. (Come to think
of it, metropolitan gardens are a little like healing
agents invading the bodies of malignant growths on the
planet!)

Summer afternoons–on weekends especially–see
dozens of city dwellers involved in the kind of work that
has sustained humankind for thousands of years. And
besides the satisfaction of eating the fruits of
their own labor, these gardeners also know exactly
how their food was grown … a rare piece of
knowledge to have in a city today!

Ocean View Farms may not be the country homestead that many
of its participants dream about, but it is a big leap in
the right direction. Furthermore, it’s a fine example of
what a few persistent people can do in less than ideal
surroundings.

Maybe possibilities for a similar project exist in
your neck of the precincts. Now’s the
time to start searching and organizing so that you’ll have
all the talk behind you, and the action well underway,
before spring–and planting time–arrives. Making
an urban community garden happen may be a chore, but the
new Los Angeles farmers–with fresh tomatoes and salad
greens in hand–will tell you that it’s worth
it!