South El Monte Youth Farm Community and Health
By Sean Telles
South El Monte, Ca –The next time you pass the Ramada Inn close to Santa Anita and the 60 freeway, imagine yourself eating the most delicious organic vegetables in the San Gabriel Valley. Then make it a reality by visiting Earth Works Farm, located slightly west of the hotel and accessible from the northerly Lerma Road. If you put in the effort, what you’ll find – in addition to army vehicles, a park, and a community garden – is a four-acre organic farm, run by the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps (SGVCC) for the purpose of helping the community through jobs, training, education, and access to healthy food.
This farm began seven years ago as a community garden started by Reverend Connie Yost to learn and teach about organic farming. It is now 4 acres, including 300 tomato plants. Last April, Richard Untal took over as Farm Manager after 4 years in Ireland studying organic farming. Phase 1 is to beautify the area and phase 2 is create outdoor classrooms for the local community to learn about healthy living.
Two members of the SGVCC program, Jesse Chipres and Joshua Esparza, are enthusiastic about their work. Through this program these young men have learned the magic of bringing something to life in the dirt, as well as lessons in nutrition, history (honoring the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe), and community involvement – all without prior farming experience. The community at large also benefits from the more than reasonably priced organic food, running from 50 cents to 2 dollars per piece.
Most importantly, the final products from this farm taste amazing. This is verified by loyal returning customers, one local journalist, and the growers themselves. As Chipres put it, “When we go to our lunch table we cut some cumber and you can taste the difference. Tomatoes here are sweeter and juicer. Here, you have to clean out the dirt. At the supermarket you have to clean off the pesticides. “
With onsite job training for youth 16-24 years-old, the Earth Works Farm program is a win-win for community employment, education, and health. Funding is provided through Supervisor Gloria Molina. Daniel Oaxaca is the Executive Director for the SGVCC. A produce stand is open to the public Saturdays from 10am-2pm.