La Cosecha Colectiva
La Cosecha Colectiva (The Collective Harvest) promotes community health and justice through community-based produce exchange/distribution in the East LA, Southeast LA, and Long Beach area communities experiencing food apartheid. Food deserts are a popular term for the isolation low-income and communities of color face when it comes to access to adequate and healthy food, but deserts are naturally occurring. An apartheid is a deliberate system of segregation or discrimination, which is what we are facing when it comes to food access in our communities.
Our La Cosecha Colectiva program was born in 2012 out of our struggle against a proposed Walmart Super Center/distribution center, which we ultimately defeated in 2016. Walmart wanted to establish itself in the City of Commerce in a neighborhood with no existing supermarket. Through our leadership and capacity building, we learned about the terrible practices of Walmart and the negative impacts that we would face. Along with this, we identified the need for access to fresh produce, as many rely on taking a bus out of the community to access a supermarket, which by design has low quality, if not already rotting, produce on the shelves. We knew we had to take it into our own hands, and eventually our own soil.
We began the process of conceptualizing a community garden, while simultaneously supporting our members in accessing a community-supported agriculture program to receive organic produce boxes. Unfortunately, much of the open land in our communities is contaminated by industrial pollution. Taking over one of the many empty lots was not a viable option. We then identified the local elementary school as the potential site of a community garden. We developed a partnership with the PTA and the Principal, but unfortunately, the school district wanted us to raise $45,000 to have their maintenance staff build and maintain the garden, which was not the vision we had or the resources we had access to. At this point, we decided to move away from a large community garden concept, and instead create a decentralized community garden based in our homes.
Our decentralized community garden was initiated using wooden crates disposed of by a furniture moving company, compost from a regional park, and soil from a local cemetery. We used a potluck of tools and seeds and picked up some things along the way. We started in backyards, front yards, driveways, patios, windows, and work places of our core members. Through our collective work, we built the foundation for a community-based foodway that has served to build community cohesion by meeting the direct needs of our families, while introducing new healthy and organic foods and medicines through our Seasoning the Seasons cooking workshops and Remedios herbal remedies workshops.
As we do this, we also build community movement away from dependency on the goods movement system that doesn’t serve us and actually pollutes our communities with the thousands of trucks that frequent food distribution warehouses located in our communities. And of course, we work to cut off the petrochemical pesticides commercial agriculture exposes us to. It is important to understand that we are building a self-driven community foodway as the foundation for developing food sovereignty as a real and sustainable solution in one of the arteries of global capitalism.
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