Save South Central Community Farm

I have attached an article below about a 14 acre community farm in South Central LA that is being demolished to make way for a warehouse. A friend of the RGP is working with the group to help them in their fight against the developers.

It is worth taking a look at their website, there are some great video and images that really give you a feel of the farmers' story.

It is proof that city by city North Americans are recognising the need to start growing food in our cities. While we rarely hear protests when rural farms are destroyed by sprawling suburbs, farms within the city itself play a role in the residents' day to day lives, expanding the farm's value beyond just what it can produce.

Save South Central Community Farm

by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Within another decade or so, community farms will
become essential to saving our cities and preventing
undernourishment and starvation. Unless the rights of
these urban community farms are protected, they can be
uprooted at any time to the detriment of the health
and well-being of those who depended upon them for
food. Right now, the fate of urban community farming
is being played out in South Central Los Angeles, and
whatever the outcome, urban community farming could be
the loser.

The South Central Community Farm could be called the
prototype for urban farms in the US. The farm consists
of 14 acres of property, divided into garden plots. It
was established in 1992 by the city, after public
protest defeated an attempt to build a trash
incinerator on the site. The property was first
acquired by eminent domain in the late 1980s. The
tract was previously owned by several private
landowners. Around 80% of the land was owned by
Alameda-Barbara trust company, a company run by Ralph
Horowitz and Jacob Libaw. Alameda-Barbara was
compensated to the tune of $4.7 million dollars.

Alameda-Barbara was granted the right of first refusal
if the city determined the property was no longer of
public use within ten years. Similar agreements are
often in place on urban property used for community
farms. It leaves the community at the mercy of the
city council and the property owner. It would go a
long way toward resolving this problem if community
farms were recognized as vital public uses.

Alameda-Barbara was succeeded by the Libow-Horowitz
Investment Company (LHIC). In 1995, the city of LA
sent a purchase agreement for the entire property to
LHIC. LHIC executed the agreement and returned it to
the city in 1996. The property would sell for
$5,227,200, contingent on City Council approval. The
city council failed to approve the agreement and the
sale fell through.

In 2002, LHIC sued the city for not executing the
purchase agreement. While this lawsuit was being
pursued, the city agreed to sell the property to
Libow-Horowitz for $5,050,000. The sale was approved
in a closed session of the City Council. The Los
Angeles Regional Food Bank, which operated the
community garden, was notified of the sale in
September of 2003. The community farmers organized to
stop the sale from going through. In December of 2003,
the city transferred the title to the Horowitz Family
Trust, the Libow Family LP, Timothy M. Ison and
Shaghan Securities, LLC. Shortly after, Ralph Horowitz
served notice to terminate the community garden on
February 29th, 2004. The farmers sought an injunction
and so began a long battle through the courts.

The saga of the South-Central Community Garden is
marked by corruption and improper procedure. The Los
Angeles City Charter requires the city to determine
that property is no longer needed for public purposes
before it is sold. The question here is whether
community farming represents a valid and important
public use. The city contention is that public
gardening is a hobby and that it is not necessary to
ensure the proper nutrition of residents. The farmers
contend that produce from the community garden is an
important part of their diet. Many in the community
cannot afford to pay the food prices demanded in the
market. Beyond this, it should be considered how
important a Community Garden is to fostering

The farmers also had to contend with corruption in the
food bank, which placed its own profits above its
service to the community. From the very beginning, the
food bank violated its permit to the property by
selling garden lots to the poor families of the
community. Following the sale of the property back to
Horowitz and associates, the food bank employed its
legal forces to work against the farmers. The farmers
organized to fight the corruption of the food bank and
the sale of the property. They elected two leaders who
would operate with certain executive privileges, but
always governed by the democratic consensus of the
entire farming community.

Even after their forceful eviction on June 13th, 2006,
the farmers continue to fight for their property and
vow that the battle is far from over. Horowitz
committed a number of errors after the farmers and
their supporters were removed from the property,

including the destruction of private property and real
estate that was not a part of the sales plot. His
errors have opened up new legal fronts for the South
Central Farmers to explore in their efforts to rescue
their community farm.

Whether the South Central Farmers win or lose, the
results are likely to have a major impact on the
future of urban community farming within the United
States. Property owners elsewhere will take this as a
warning not to enter into community farming
agreements. They will reason that, even if there is a
clause in the contract stating that they can reclaim
the property when they have some other valid use for
it, once the farm is established the farmers will not
honor their agreement. Cities will be less inclined to
get involved in community farming if it could lead to
the sort of legal mess that has occurred in LA. And
citizens and community groups will not be eager to
start a community farm if all their hard work could
simply be bulldozed at a later time. If the farmers
raise the money to purchase the acreage, this will
send a clear signal that within the US urban community
farming can only succeed through purchase of the land.
Such a message could severely limit the ability of
community farming to help those who need it the most.

This being said, I am donating what little I can to
help the South Central Farmers. And I urge everyone to
do likewise. You can send them donations through their
website: A large
show of support from throughout the US would send a
message to all of our leaders that the US public
understands the importance of community farms.

For the rest of us, we need to organize, educate and
lobby for community farming. Cities, in particular,
need to understand that community farming is a vital
service like water, shelter and sewage treatment. In
the waning days of hydrocarbons, as food prices
continue to climb and food shipments become
increasingly erratic, community gardens will become a
necessity to feed the population and to prevent hunger
and malnutrition. We need to establish networks of
community farms in every urban area, and the rights of
these farms need to be protected.

Ideally, we would transform to a system where all
property is held in trust for the planet, with the
local community acting as trustees in a direct,
participatory manner. Homesteading and farming would
be honored as valid uses, and the rights of
homesteaders and farmers would be protected, when
balanced by the rights of the ecosystem. But the
ability of landlords and profiteers to extort profit
from their supposed legal ownership of real estate
would be recognized as what it is: an abuse of the
ecosystem and the community. As such, investment in
real estate would not be tolerated and the very idea
that you could own the land would be as inconceivable
to us as it was to the American Indians when Europeans
first came to this continent.

But we are a long way from this ideal, and the society
we inhabit is actually moving the other way, toward
increasing privatization and commoditization. For now
we must work to educate the public and build a base
for community farms and the concept of land
stewardship in place of property ownership. And we
must strive to win the small battles as they occur.
Battles such as the continued existence of the South
Central Community Farm.

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