With a daughter on the way, and noticing how food quality has deteriorated over time, Jamiah Hargins decided to take matters into his own hands by building a backyard garden to provide healthy food for his growing family.
When Jamiah realized that he was producing more food than he needed, he began offering up his bounty to neighbors on Nextdoor. Jamiah soon discovered plenty of neighbors with a green thumb who were curious about sharing their homegrown crops on a regular basis.
With kindness and generosity, Jamiah invited his neighbors to his backyard to trade gardening supplies, homemade jams, fresh eggs, honey, and anything else homemade or homegrown with their community. Quickly gathering over 80 neighbors, the West Adams Crop Swap was born.
Beyond providing an affordable way for neighbors to access healthy local food, Jamiah has a mission to make a bigger difference in his community. The West Adams Crop Swap has partnered with veterans and previously incarcerated citizens to provide financial support, job training skills, education, and a smooth re-entry to the community. Thanks to the success of the community crop swap and Jamiah’s big plans for the future, the grand opening of the permanent West Adams Farmer’s Market will be on December 1st with the mission of “transforming Los Angeles into the world’s largest urban farm.”
We spoke to Jamiah about the West Adams community and the inspiration behind his garden:
What does community mean to you, and why is it important in today’s world?
Community is recognizing similarities between yourselves, and leaning into those as the core of your relationship. It is also recognizing your inherent codependency and working with that truth to improve your mutual quality of life. I try to say hi to my neighbors, participate in local community meetings, and feel personally responsible for improving any space I am inhabiting.
What do you love most about your neighborhood?
The birds in West Adams are the most fascinating wildlife to observe. There are giant flocks of bright green parakeets that live in West Adams, and they loudly move between the fruiting palm trees nearby. They famously escaped from a Los Angeles pet store 30 years ago and have propagated exponentially ever since. These parakeets live in pairs throughout their lives, so when I hear them pass overhead I try to check if the number is even, or if somebody is lonely and the number is odd.
What inspired you to begin gardening?
Noticing how food quality has reduced over time, I decided to take the matter into my own hands and create my own food. I had a daughter on the way, and could not imagine giving her the sugary and salty garbage that is available in most places around our city. If it meant learning how to use a saw and a drill in order to build raised beds to support my daughter and family, I would do it. My grandmother, now 89-years-old living in Fresno, once had a magnificent garden of her own. For many years she grew corn, squash, tomatoes, and all kinds of edible delights that supported eight children! Motivation is not just economic and nutritional, it’s also practical given the difficulty in keeping up in Los Angeles. My garden has replaced all of my snacking, which has improved my health and more.
What motivated you to begin the West Adams crop swap?
My garden ended up producing more than I needed so I started giving it away to the community. The Nextdoor platform allowed me to reach out to more people, at which point I discovered other gardeners and ask them to start sharing their extras with me on a monthly basis. We called it the West Adams Crop Swap.
What motivated you to work alongside previously incarcerated citizens?
The incarceration problem in our country is one that is based in removing opportunities from people. Training is important to create a system that places people who need an opportunity into a great place. We have the power to provide opportunities to people, so you can view this effort as a balancing act. In many ways, gardening is the best rehabilitative tactic for folks who’ve been incarcerated because it connects them back to the soil, caring for living things, and improving the environment. More so, we are able to create jobs and a consistent lifestyle for returning citizens.
Congrats on the farmer’s market opening in December! What are you most excited about this next adventure?
The farmer’s market is a strategic element of our infrastructure to enable food justice. There needs to be more options for people in the West Adams area to buy and consume fresh locally grown food. We will also hold our monthly crop swap at the market, highlighting the community work we are doing to grow more food on the land of residents and commercial buildings. The market will have over 40 vendors with fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, honey, cured meats, and various other delicious items for the community to enjoy. We will also have music and yoga, so the community can enjoy a new asset.
Do you know someone who goes above and beyond for your neighborhood? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a great neighbor in your community.
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