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Urban Gardens -- A Growth Industry

Wave Newspapers, Feature, Olu Alemoru Posted: Aug 01, 2008

South L.A. master gardener Beverly Newton is at the center of a trend that finds many urban residents planting and tending their own fruits and vegetables.

Having dusted off that bike to save money on sky-high gas prices, could it be time for another eco-friendly move to ease the effects of paying more for what we eat?

Anger over high food prices sparked deadly protests on the African continent earlier this year, as well as social unrest in the Caribbean and India, among other places.

Were unlikely to find similar headlines here, but Southland residents like Beverly Newton are part of a green-thumbed trend of people growing their own fruits and vegetables and doing their bit for the environment in the process.

A 54-year-old resident of Windsor Hills, Newton is a volunteer master gardener with the University of Californias Cooperative Extension program. The program provides intense gardening training that enables volunteers to teach low-income residents how to grow their own food.

Founded in 1914, the cooperative was established to connect local communities to their states land grant university.

A life-long gardener, Newton, who works in the legal profession, is a graduate of the 2007 class. I knew two other people who had gone through the program and I went on their Web site to research the course, she said. The program taught us how to resource information in order to help other people garden, especially, in the area of growing food. They teach us about pest control, fertilizers, seeds, plants, every aspect of gardening.

Currently, Newton volunteers her services as a master gardener at the Leimert Park and Watts Farmers Markets on the second and third Saturdays of each month, respectively. She also helps out at the garden campus of 54th Street Elementary School.

Its very easy to grow your own vegetables, Newton said. You can practically grow a garden in a gallon container or a bucket. Things like tomatoes, onions and peppers grow almost anywhere and need very little water. Right now, in my garden Im trying to grow corn and I have a few melons, onions, peppers and cucumbers.

Newton recalled how her grandparents always had something growing in their backyard.

There was a time when Black people grew most of their food, Newton said. I think we should go back to that because it can help us [economically] in the long run.

For now, Newton is happy to use her knowledge to help out fellow Angelenos, but one day her expertise might come in handy further afield.

My husband wants a second home in Ghana, she said, and Id love to see what kind of crops we could grow over there.

b>Related Articles:

Youth Voices: Respect Mother Earth

Los Angeles Street Vendors Under Scrutiny

New York Mayor's War On Community Gardens Backfires

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