Between a hotel, fast-food burger joint and the 60 Freeway sits an unusual patch of greenery — the Earthworks Farm & Community Garden in El Monte, California.
El Monte is a “food desert,” meaning the city lacks places where residents can buy healthy, fresh produce and vegetables. The ratio of unhealthy to healthy food shopping options is more than five to one in the eastern Los Angeles County community. The Earthworks farm is a program of the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps and was designed to improve those statistics by promoting sustainable agriculture and teaching organic farming to area residents. It’s an urban farm.
“The farm is about five acres with a very small part-time staff,” said Marianne Zaugg, Earthworks Farm program manager. “It’s an organic farm, so we have lots of weeds coming back and we rely on volunteers to help out.”
Recently, volunteers from Southern California Edison's (SCE) EcoIQ employee resource group, which consists of employees dedicated to developing and maintaining a culture of environmental responsibility, provided some tender-loving care at the farm, including getting rid of those pesky weeds. The team tended to the garden, trimmed trees and cleared brush.
“The Earthworks farm is located in the backyard of SCE’s Rosemead office,” said Jaclyn Loomis, SCE project manager and organizer of the volunteer event. “The farm has given so much back to our community, we were excited to lend a hand and spruce things up.”
Stephanie Yang and Kin Lay, SCE summer interns, volunteered with their co-workers. “I’ve read about the benefits of urban farming, but never had the opportunity to visit one,” said Lay. “Earthworks goes beyond providing the community with fresh produce. It gives children a chance to plant and appreciate their food sources and nature.”
It wasn’t all work for the volunteer team. After finishing, they stopped at the farm’s produce stand for a snack.
“We bought organic tomatoes and carrots from the food stand,” said Yang. “They were cheap, fresh, tasted great and a great way to finish the day!”