When Columbia University graduate Jamiah Hargins found out he was about to become a father, he knew he wanted to give his daughter the happiest, healthiest life possible.
He looked around his neighborhood of West Adams and realized there were no healthy food options for his growing family. Despite living in an urban community where you might not normally find gardens, he decided to grow his own fruits and vegetables right in his backyard.
"It's the only thing that really goes into your body on a regular basis," he said. "So if you can take care of that, you can take care of your health, your economy, and your ability to thrive in a society independently."
When it came time to harvest his crops, Hargins realized he had so much food that he decided to share it with his neighbors. He reached out to his local community, and the response was overwhelming. His neighbors, he found, had food to share as well. And with that, Crop Swap LA was born.
On this episode of LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez, Hargins explains how Crop Swap LA has grown throughout the years. What started as a small, urban garden exchange has developed into a community movement to encourage those in the inner city to grow their own food.
Hargins tells Fernandez that you don’t need a lot of space to plant a garden. “We now have the opportunity using technology and regenerative, organic growing systems to create and grow food anywhere,” he said. “That could be in a front yard, a backyard...any pavement, rooftop, parking lot. There are strategies to make that happen.”
In addition to his urban garden movement and food share program, Hargins also started the West Adams Farmers Market as a way to allow fresh, healthy foods to be sold to his local community. It’s not a mistake, he says, that major grocery store chains avoid low-income neighborhoods. According to Hargins, it’s a form of systemic racism, designed to neglect the needs of underserved communities.
With Crop Swap LA and the West Adams Farmers Market, he is revolutionizing access to healthy foods for all. To Hargins, building a better future for his daughter is a lot like gardening.
“As you uplift one plant and replant something new, there's a ton of transition, but there's also regrowth opportunity,” he said. “Those nutrients are still in the ground becoming part of the new thing, but there's new additions to it, and the seeds that come from that are far stronger than what was originally planted.”