Last week I saw an award-winning documentary called THE GARDEN at the New York Horticulture Society (www.hsny.org), a venue that has a phenomenal horticulture library as well as regular plant-related fine art exhibits. The space also transforms into a movie theater to show new films of interest to those who want to make the planet greener and fervently wish to halt the ongoing devastation.
I want to warn you that there is a devastating scene in The Garden, one which I cannot get out of my head.
The film is about the joys and then the trials and tribulations of a fourteen-acre community garden at 41st and Alameda in South Central Los Angeles–the largest garden of its kind in the United States. As described by the film-makers, the garden started as a form of healing after the devastating L.A. riots in 1992. In one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods, South Central Farmers, primarily Hispanic, created a kind of urban miracle by growing enough food in their individual plots to feed their families. We witness a garden bursting with life, the trees dripping with tropical fruits, the farmers forming a community–all with the sky scrapers of L.A. as the backdrop.
As one farmer explains: This is what we are meant to do. This is what we know how to do, what our fathers taught us. This is our sacred place.
The Garden (www.blackvalleyfilms.com) follows the plight of these farmers when their garden is threatened. Mostly immigrants from Latin American countries where they feared for their lives if they were to speak out, they come together to organize, fight back, and demand answers:
Why was the land originally sold to a wealthy developer for millions less than fair-market value? Why was the transaction done in a closed-door session of the LA City Council? Why has it never been made public? Why won’t the developer sell the land to the farmers once they’ve pulled off a second miracle by raising the 14 million he names as the purchase price?
It is devastating to watch the garden bulldozed to the ground–every fruit tree felled, every plant guillotined. The magnificent green garden is gone and the questions are left unanswered.