WEST ADAMS DISTRICT, Calif. – When it’s Safer At Home, the only place to enjoy the sun is in our own backyards. Urban gardener Jamiah Hargins is the founder of Crop Swap LA and his backyard hosts a cornucopia of homegrown fruits and vegetables.
“Thankfully, you don't need a lot of space to create a lot of food in Los Angeles,” said Hargins, founder of Crop Swap LA. “If you have a balcony or live in a condo, there are options that you can take place in, such as creating a vertical tower.”
A self-described military brat, Jamiah grew up all over the world, but moved to Los Angeles seven years ago to be closer to his mother and brother. Once he started his own family, he decided it was his duty as a parent to make food accessible in his own backyard. What he didn’t expect was the abundance.
“I was really desperate to create a garden and create food for myself and share that, the abundance, extras with others who are doing the same thing,” said Hargins.
When Jamiah had more lemons and herbs than his family needed, he posted on the social media app Nextdoor and invited neighbors to exchange whatever extras they had growing for his.
“Honestly, there's so much,” said Hargins. “These are the artichokes that are growing and they're amazing, huge, and productive so everyone has extra and that's what nature's abundance means.”
More than anything, he didn’t want to see the abundance go to waste.
“We give away our extras. Our seeds, seedlings, everything from soil to compost,” said Hargins.
No money is exchanged and it’s all based on an honor system. You take what you need and leave what you don’t. Once Crop Swap LA outgrew his backyard, Hargins collaborated with community partners and blossomed the idea into the West Adams Farmers Market.
When COVID-19 hit, they immediately adopted strict social distancing standards. Once city officials approved their plan, they were authorized to re-open.
“A lot of us that are backyard gardeners, we do extend out beyond ourselves,” said Hargins. “We consider ourselves local farmers. We make a sizable amount of food and we support each other along the way. So local farmers are us and we are them.”
For Hargins, gardening has done a lot more than providing sustenance .
“Gardening improves your life in a thousand ways,” said Hargins. “We have a sustainable food source. We got a place for our daughter to play that’s safe, comfortable and clean. And it’s a learning environment, both for the child and for us.”
Feeding your family means feeding your community.