When a piece of fruit has travelled to more countries than you have, it is very unlikely that it will be just as fresh as if it were picked from a farm down the street.
As opposed to the fruit aisle at the grocery store, Farm Lot 59, a one-acre biointensive mini farm located at 2714 California Ave., provides food that is organic and local. “It literally gets grown on site in the greenhouse,” said Sasha Kanno, director of the farm. “We harvest it. We walk it to the store, and then it’s here, available for you. It doesn’t travel. It’s been harvested this morning. It couldn’t be any fresher and more full of nutrients. And that’s why we do it.”
The farm lot was 59th of 185 that were in a 4,000-acre piece of the American Colony in Rancho Los Cerritos. The American Colony was developed in 1881 through an agreement between William Willmore and J. Bixby & Co.The farm lots remained until 1902 when urbanization subdivided them into home lots. Farm Lot 59 was never developed into a larger farm nor home.
Even though the farm is small, its size doesn’t affect the variety they provide. “We have these beautiful beets, carrots, snap peas, avocados, blood oranges, kale mix, stir-fry mix, head lettuce, lots of stuff,” Kanno said.
In addition, 45 hens, with the help of one rooster, provide the farm with eggs. The farm is currently receiving about three dozen eggs a day. “They eat organic, and they eat all the scraps from the farm,” Kanno said. “Their eggs are full of [omega-3s], and they’re delicious [with] really perky yolks and pure taste. They’re definitely different than any store-bought egg. There’s different hens. So, they lay [differently] colored eggs. There’s blue, and there’s speckled brown and different colors. They all taste the same.”
The farm gives children the opportunity to learn about urban farming and the earth’s ecosystems. Through a tour, they explore the farming operation and identify beneficial bugs and flowers. “They get to take home a little seed pot, and they get to share their salad,” Kanno added.
A children’s garden is currently being designed. “We are going to be developing that next year,” Kanno said. “So, this year, we are going to host more classes, build a learning center and be able to take on more school groups and things like that.”
There are also plans to build an outdoor kitchen. Kanno wants to use it for cooking demonstrations and nutrition classes. “We can show people the farm and the ingredients, but making it into a meal is when you really have a personal connection with the food,” she said.
The volunteers also benefit in several ways– besides eating the organic food. “They get to learn,” Kanno noted. “I am constantly learning too. They bring knowledge to me, and I share everything that I can with them. People are interested in chicken-keeping [and] irrigation systems. A lot of people have made greenhouses off of our model. They can come and learn how to farm.”
Right now, there are six dedicated volunteers while others come and go weekly. “We are always looking for more dedicated people, of course, more hands-on people that want to come and harvest with us in the mornings.” The volunteers work from 9am to noon Tuesday through Saturday.
Kanno is excited to work at the farm during the summer. “It’s really hot, and it’s hard work, but the payoff is just amazing,” she said. “This year, we are doing okra, green and burgundy; couple kinds of sweet corn; black popcorn; tons of tomato varieties, tomatillo, purple and green; summer squash. It’s really bountiful.”
The store is open on Fridays from 2pm to 6pm and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm from March to November.