Home Precision Agriculture This Urban Farm Is Small But Mighty

This Urban Farm Is Small But Mighty


On Dillon Toscano’s first day at GrowGood Urban Farm, situated simply 20 minutes southeast of downtown Los Angeles, he was put to work constructing hen coops. The farm was anticipating a supply of child chicks, which Toscano was enthusiastic about. “We got to see these chickens grow, and that was a whole understanding of farm life for me,” he says, reminiscing.

But as cute as these child chicks had been, coated in a downy white-blonde fuzz, they didn’t offset the quantity of labor required to construct their coops and put together for his or her arrival. “It’s not easy work, growing, plowing, it was very humbling,” says Toscano. “It was sweaty work.”

Nonetheless, Toscano got here again, day after day, for practically two years. He planted seeds and harvested their fruit. He raked, plowed, weeded and plucked till his shirts had been soaked with sweat. He stood barefoot within the gardens, listening to the delicate sounds of the birds and bugs and vegetation round him. Ultimately, he began doing yoga within the backyard and attending counseling classes round an enormous tree whereas sitting comfortably in its shade. He tuned in to the rhythms and power of the solar rising and setting, discovering peace as he walked among the many vegetation.

Dillon Toscano on GrowGood Urban Farm. Picture courtesy of GrowGood.

GrowGood isn’t your common farm, and Toscano is just not your common farm hand.

At GrowGood, situated in Bell, California, farm arms and volunteers are all residents of the Salvation Military shelter throughout the road. About 30 ft from the gates of the 1.5-acre city farm, the shelter homes a whole lot of individuals, and it feeds them with meals grown proper exterior their door. The farm affords counseling classes within the backyard, and the farm tries to introduce and tailor packages to what their residents need. That’s how Toscano discovered himself doing yoga and meditation in the course of a lettuce patch—and loving it.

The small farm has 72 fruit bushes planted, in addition to all kinds of produce. Salad greens are well-liked, together with peppers to snack on. Okra, corn, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, carrots and cherry tomatoes every have their very own little areas. Within the winter, the farm produces kale and collard greens, which develop subsequent to pumpkin and squash patches. But much more spectacular than the crops the farm grows is the affect they’ve on the individuals who harvest them.

“Even just taking the carrot out of the ground and washing it off [is impactful],” says farm supervisor Francis River. “[People] really appreciate those moments, because it’s kind of this special moment where some people have never pulled a carrot out of the ground and have been able to eat it.”

One thing so simple as selecting a peach or an orange from a tree can gentle a spark in guests to the farm. “We have several people who really want to get into tree care, because they just have this experience where they’re harvesting straight from the tree,” says River.

For farm arms corresponding to Toscano, the farm has offered a singular alternative for therapeutic. There, he realized a way referred to as grounding, the place he makes bodily contact with the earth under him. “At least two hours, minimum, a day,” Toscano advises. “That was the goal, and it really started helping with my recovery.”

Like most of the roughly 500 residents who dwell or attend packages on the shelter, Toscano discovered himself on the gates of GrowGood whereas making an attempt to detox from years of drug dependancy. Realizing that different paths to sobriety hadn’t labored for him, Toscano was an keen farm hand, desirous to “take advantage of everything” the farm needed to provide, together with an dependancy restoration program.

Farm supervisor Francis River. Picture courtesy of GrowGood.

That’s what farm supervisor River likes to listen to. When volunteers from the shelter come to GrowGood, he’s excited to welcome them, educate them the fundamentals of farm administration after which watch as they discover little pockets of transformation by means of plowing, planting and harvesting. One of many well-liked packages the farm affords known as Meals For Life. “It basically guides participants through gentle yoga in the farm, as well as meditation, breathing exercises and a kind of an open discussion about where they are, expressing things that they’re going through,” River explains. “Part of the program is learning to handle anxiety and stress and all these traumas, while they’re also in this little wooded area, surrounded by native plants.”

It’s arduous to imagine that there might be an city oasis in the course of a concrete jungle, however River says the farm actually does have a unique power to it. “You can sit down, and not see a telephone pole of a building, and you’re away from the road. You don’t see any cars. It’s a little hidden gem,” he says. “It’s just a safe space where we’re involved with nature and agriculture, but also building this trust and this kind of openness and vulnerability.”

Farm arms and volunteers attend counseling teams beneath the farm’s tree. Picture courtesy of GrowGood.

Sooner or later, River would like to increase the packages provided on the farm. He’s regarded into bringing extra meditation or yoga coaches on board to guide courses or having cooks host culinary and cooking courses with the contemporary produce. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, having a secure and open outside house has develop into much more necessary for River and the volunteer farm arms, and he desires to search out methods to assist them develop even additional. “I would love to be able to get some funding to do more transitional employment programs, where we can actually pay people to work and build up their resume, so then they can help bridge the employment gap for them going forward,” River says. “There’s always projects I’m happy to find and do.”

These alternatives actually helped to vary Toscano’s life. Since strolling onto the GrowGood farm in 2015, he’s left the shelter and opened his personal canine boarding and grooming enterprise along with his spouse. He’s been sober for 5 years, and he credit a lot of that to classes he realized on the farm.

“The way that I’ve been able to [maintain sobriety] is by keeping my program going, making sure I utilize all those things that I took from the farm,” he says.


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