By Johanna Recalde, EnrichLA Operations Director

Since 2011, EnrichLA has been building and maintain edible schools gardens throughout Los Angeles. With over 120 gardens built, our goal is to have a garden in every Los Angeles school. In addition to building gardens, we also offer an educational Garden Ranger Program in which students learn about organic gardening, healthy eating, environmental stewardship, and much more. With our program in 95 of schools, we connect over 40,000 students a year to the source of their food. Through these gardens, we promote community involvement, cheer up school campuses, help students build a good work ethic, and promote thoughtful and healthy eating habits.

Farm grown tomatoes

The great work that we do has been possible due to the great partnerships we have developed over the years. As a small, frugal non-profit, we rely heavily on grants and donations to continue our growth and reach schools in areas with the most need. One fruitful partnership has been with the wonderful folks at Unilever and Growing Roots, which have been amazing supporters of our mission. We first got connected to Unilever through the Whole Kids Foundation, which has funded many of our school gardens. Unilever became interested in our organization and graciously decided to help fund our El Sereno Middle School Rural Center.

The Rural Center

The Rural Center, an idea which we started developing in 2017, will include an office space, teaching studios, as well as more garden amenities such as a regional nursery, outdoor kitchen, and most importantly, a campus farm. Once the farm is complete, the Rural Center will launch a robust community-supported agriculture program, where students and community members will be able to learn about organic farming, healthy eating and much more. The Rural Center will be highly integrated into the curriculum of the new Environmental Science and Humanitarian Magnet School that will open for the 2019-2020 school year at El Sereno Middle School. Students of this magnet will directly use and learn from the garden and farm, and will have a unique interdisciplinary curriculum. This Rural Center will enable EnrichLA to better serve and educate students and the surrounding community, by serving as a central hub for our operations and a place for the development of curriculum, workshops, and events.

Garden at the rural center

Since receiving the funds from Unilever, we have made great progress in the development of the Rural Center. We are hopeful that the project will be completed in the fall, right on time for the opening of the new Magnet School. Thanks to the funds from Unilever, we have been able to renovate the office and classroom space so far. We have also been able to acquire some building materials and tools that we will need for the future, including a new tractor, 2 greenhouses, an assortment of power tools, new wheelbarrows, and garden tools. While EnrichLA is extremely excited to continue the development of this project, we are currently awaiting for LAUSD to finish their part of the project, which included removing some unused bungalows. All that remains is for them to do some soil remediation in the area where the new farm will go. After this step, EnrichLA will quickly develop the farm so include raised garden beds, and outdoor kitchen and classroom area, a nursery and a dry creek.

The Rural Center has already garnered a lot of support and interest from the school community and our partner schools. We are excited to complete the project and we are so grateful for everyone that continues to support our mission!