Episode 6 Food & Identity Systems - South Central Farmers

This week we are exploring the intersection of two powerful systems at work both within and outside of the home. Food and identity are intricately linked. The saying, "You are what you eat.", reverberates now more than ever as the food we eat is produced and transported from farther away and made from ingredients that are synthesized and almost impossible to pronounce.

A recent article in The New York Times highlights our increasing disconnection to our food system explaining that what you eat has everything to do with how much money you have, particularly when it's cheaper to buy a package of Twinkies than a bunch of carrots. This article also looks at the power of U.S. government subsidies to determine what we and our children are eating - from our choices at the supermarket to those in the school cafeteria.

Those who decide to grow their own food are taking back the ability to make the right decisions for themselves - what fruits and vegetables to plant and how to organically grow them. For almost 14 years, the South Central Farmers were doing just that. This 14 acre farm located in South Central Los Angeles provided 350 families with the ability to grow their own produce allowing them to significantly subsidize their family food budget and offering them a meaningful connection to the land that is often impossible to have in an inner city environment. This urban oasis stood out -- satellite views of LA showed two large rectangles of green surrounding by isolated industrial warehouses and dense urban poverty. It was a hub of community involvement spurring several other initiatives around health, the environment and economic justice issues.

Unfortunately, the farm now lies fallow. This month marks the one year anniversary of the farmers final eviction from the land. After years of protests, fund raising efforts and the involvement of several high profile celebrities and activists, including Joan Baez, Darryl Hannah and Leonardo Dicaprio, the land was given back to the developer who had left it derelict years before the City of L.A. had made it available to the farmers. Police force and bulldozers were used to rid the land of both the farmers and their creations. Protestors were arrested and the 14 biologically diverse acres of trees and plants were razed.

Here to talk more the South Central Farmers and their continuing struggle to make urban farming an option for the people of South Central L.A. is Tezozomoc. He is the elected leader of the original South Central Farmers and the manager of one of the ongoing cooperatives that emerged from the farm's activities.

To learn more about the South Central Farmers, check out the link below. There are also links to a short documentary about the South Central Farmers directed by Ross Guidici, a YouTube video covering the destruction of the farm and photographs taken by Jonathan McIntosh who has made them available to download using the Wikimedia Commons.



Also check out the link below to read The New York Times article, "You Are What You Grow", written by Michael Pollan, in order to better understand the impact of the U.S. Farm Bill and its role in what we eat.


The two songs used in today's program are from the Save the Farm 2005 CD. They were recorded during a concert in held November of 2005 organized by the South Central Farmers. Here is a link to listen to the entire CD.


Join us next week for another episode of World House Radio: Stories of Home.