Soil to Table—Introducing Avenue 33 Farm

  • Posted on 26 October 2020
  • By Felicity Crossland

Have you ever thought that soil could be the key to a sustainable future?

Five years ago, I would not have known the answer to this or even thought about it in the first place. After discovering the realities of large scale farming and the environmental destruction, I became vegan, which greatly changed my outlook on food and the process behind it. I am interested in the solutions to modern, industrialized agriculture that create a sustainable future and healthier food for the planet and people. 
Avenue 33, a 1.2 acre urban farm that sits on a hillside in Lincoln Heights, 3 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, is working to prove this. The farm produces fresh cut flowers and a couple hundred varieties of both vegetables and herbs, supplying them to restaurants, chefs and the local community. 

Photogrpah by Robyn Beck, all rights reserved

How is it possible to have a farm in the middle of Los Angeles? The answer lies in regenerative agriculture, a system of farming principles and practices that look to increase biodiversity, enrich the soils, improve watersheds, work with the ecosystem and produce healthier and more sustainable crops. 
“Urban farming isn't going to feed the world in the same way that larger scale farming does, but it does connect people to their food,” says Eric Tomassini who co-owns and operates the farm with his wife Ali Greer.
Through the process of learning more about the practices that go into growing food, consumers are able to make more informed choices in both the financial and nutritional value of the food they eat. The process of how the produce is grown and the health of the soil really does have a huge impact on the nutritional value of the item, a major focus point of Avenue 33’s farming. 
There is an abundance of environmental benefits from urban farming that serves the city. This is proven by the work of Avenue 33 Farm. Eric mentioned two main benefits which are water infiltration and carbon sequestration. Los Angeles experiences a large amount of water loss, especially on rainy days where we see tons of rain water stream into storm drains and run out to the Pacific Ocean. At Avenue 33 Farm, this rain water is captured in the soil and they experience very little run off, if any. This infiltration amount is measured through their partnership with Kiss The Ground, a nonprofit whose focus is on education and resources for regenerative agriculture, showing the potential of water saving benefits for urban farms in Los Angeles. 
The other major environmental benefit for Los Angeles is through carbon sequestration, which describes the long-term storage of carbon dioxide in the soil and other forms of carbon from the air. This helps to mitigate the impacts of climate change and air quality. “There are many empty, essentially dead hillsides that continue eroding into the ocean, but could instead be used to sequester carbon from the air by green living and vegetative growth, essentially urban farms” Eric says.
From a community standpoint, Avenue 33 Farm is helping feed Angelenos healthy and sustainable produce through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, providing 20 families fresh produce every week with plans to increase to 50 families by Spring 2021. They also sell individual produce boxes on their website and to small stores in the local area, with future partnerships working to get their produce direct to the consumer and people in need.

Photograph by Robyn Beck, all rights reserved

What is next for the Avenue 33 Farm? They hope to be a resource for other farmers sharing their knowledge and practices for the Southern California climate, creating an incubator model for hillside plots to empower others to start urban farms and assist with school gardens, planting methods and home scale projects. 
If you are like me and many others who have started gardening in quarantine or are now inspired to start, I asked Eric his advice on the best herbs and vegetables for beginner growers with the Southern Californian Climate. Eric’s advice is to use perennial herbs such as thyme, sage, chives and even parsley and vegetables such as kale, chard, collard greens, small radishes (baby or french) and salad turnips.    
Avenue 33 Farm and their partnership with Kiss the Ground is redefining modern industrial agriculture through regenerative agricultural practices and they are showing us the possibilities for a future where we use the empty hillsides or spaces in Los Angeles and transform them into urban farms. Soil to table sounds like a good future to me.
To find out more about Avenue 33 Farm and their practices, follow their Instagram, website or email them with any questions.  

Photograph by Robyn Beck, all rights reserved

Felicity Crossland is a recent UCLA Communication Studies graduate and passionate environmentalist. She volunteers as a communication specialist with the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter.

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