East LA gardener turns concrete backyard into a 'food forest'

What was once a hillside backyard filled with concrete and cement is now a blossoming 'food forest' filled with over 70 plants and fruit trees, many of which are edible.
EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A hillside backyard in East Los Angeles was mostly all concrete and cement. Now, it's a blossoming garden filled with over 70 plants and fruit trees, many of which are edible, thanks to Ken Sparks.

"I've been here maybe six years now. And I just started my company called The Farmer Ken," said Ken Sparks, an East LA resident.

The Ohio native recently created his business, The Farmer Ken, to focus on gardening consulting. Sparks said his grandmother taught him how to garden.

"The grandmother that I learned gardening from passed away last July," said Sparks. "This actually, I guess, motivated me to garden even more."

Sparks used to be a musician and a production coordinator. But the pandemic forced him to shift gears.

"The set life definitely took a hard pause once COVID-19 hit and then music as well. Of course, there's no venues to really perform," said Sparks.
Sparks has also focused on developing his seven-level backyard, which he calls a food forest. The top levels have most of his fruit trees and some hens where he gets fresh eggs from in the morning. On the lower levels, he has his vegetables and herbs.

"I had my garden before COVID-19 hit, and then it seems like there's been a big peak and interest in gardening from a lot of people," said Sparks. "I've been getting a lot of people reaching out to me lately on tips and pointers or if I could help set up their garden."

Sparks said his green thumb has helped plant community gardens on the East Coast and in Los Angeles. Now, through his business, The Farmer Ken, he hopes to give back with more community work.

"I have a couple projects coming up," said Sparks. "I am going to have an initiative coming up where I can try to secure some funding so that I can go out and secure community garden spaces."

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