Microfarms may be the food-growing solution to feeding SoCal's food deserts

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Saturday, May 22, 2021
Microfarms: The food-growing solution to feed SoCal's food deserts
What do you do when supermarkets are scarce in your neighborhood? Well, one L.A. resident is growing his own food.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- What do you do when supermarkets are scarce in your neighborhood? Well, one L.A. resident is growing his own food.

Jamiah Hargins, founder of Asante Microfarm, had the idea to transform a front yard garden into a microfarm where he grows some 600 plants including kale, rainbow chard, spinach, basil and countless other fresh greens.

The home is at the corner of Angeles Vista Boulevard and Olympiad Drive and belongs to a friend, Mychal Creer.

"I didn't know what it was going to look like. All I had in my head was there were going to be some crops and we're going to have to do some harvest and I could eat it," said Creer.

It took Hargins just a month to build Asante Microfarm, but he actually first started growing his own vegetable garden in the yard of his West Adams home.

He grew so many fruits and vegetables, he reached out to neighbors to swap his produce for theirs. That led to Crop Swap LA, an organization Hargins created to encourage others to grow their own produce and help create green jobs.

MORE | Futuristic vertical farm aims to bring fresh produce, jobs to Compton

Vertical farming company Plenty is building a futuristic farm in Compton. Upon completion, the vertical farm will contain rows upon rows of crops with the capacity to produce 365 harvests of high quality leafy greens per year.

"The point of this whole thing is about resilience, resilience for my family and your family, and resilience for the city," Hargins commented.

Hargins paid for the microfarm using part of a $50,000 LA-2050 grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation. He uses the large majority of the money for an irrigation system that relies on captured rain water.

"We've created the world's first recycling garden that uses only 8% of the water previously used to grow grass, to now grow food," Hargins said.

The 37-year-old plans to maintain the microfarm with monthly membership fees from the 52 families enrolled, Mario and Cecilia Prins among them.

"My husband and I have a juice company so we've been blending these greens into our green juices, so it's been really beneficial to have in this community," said Cecilia Prins. "It's extremely affordable."

The View Park-Windsor Hills community is considered a food desert - meaning the area does not have an abundance of supermarkets like Sprouts and Whole Foods that have quality fresh produce.

Hargins also hopes to install 400 similar front yard microfarms throughout Los Angeles. He named his first one "Asante Microfarm" in a gesture of gratitude as "Asante" means "thank you" in Swahili.

"It's a thank you to the community, it's a thank you to Crop Swap LA, it's a thank you to the family who's allowed us to use this space," remarked Hargins.