Started as a social experiment in Venice Beach, California, the Community Healing Gardens has grown into so much more. Founder Nicole Landers initially wanted to develop a framework for introducing new and long-standing residents of her neighborhood to one another, and her mind made a natural leap.
“The one thing that binds us all together is food. So, what better way than to build a garden?” she explains.
After assessing available space in Venice and the surrounding neighborhoods, Nicole knew that her idea was possible. She set out to transform an acre of space behind a Middle School in Watts, into a community garden. Joining her in bringing the idea to life was a group of local concerned citizens and residents, independent local business owners, the school leaders and active community members, both from Venice and from nearby Watts.
Watts, while just 18 miles from Venice, can feel like a world away. Bridging the gap between these communities was one of the ambitious goals of Nicole’s project. In Watts, the population is dense, income is low, and fresh food grocery stores are rare; the promise of a project like the Healing Community Garden was immeasurable! The seeds that would be planted there would be literal, but also conceptual: they would be seeds of change, particularly for the young kids of Watts.
Many families in Watts live under the poverty line and do not have access to healthy food like leafy greens. So Nicole and her team committed to planting such healthy food in the community garden. “We need to become self-sufficient,” she says, in terms of healthy food, and “to make it accessible and affordable to all.” In the garden, students from the nearby school learn about earth sciences while families from the neighborhood gather their fresh-grown vegetables.
Nicole knew that there was power in the earth’s ecosystem to change lives, but she didn’t realize how substantially her project could help her community tap into that power. Now that the community garden has impacted over 750 K-8 students, with 700 volunteers and more than 3,000 pounds of food grown, donated, and consumed, she is starting to understand just how important this project truly is.
The Community Healing Gardens achieved Nicole’s original goal, to bring people together, while also providing food for people of all socio-economic status, from Venice to Watts. It just goes to show that ALL THINGS GROW WITH LOVE!