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Yardzen believes that we are our best selves when we spend time outdoors. Thoughtfully curated landscapes provide more than just aesthetic value; they can also improve mental and physical health as well as enable meaningful connections between members of a community. GrowGood, a nonprofit organization that embodies the concept of the intentional usage of space, runs a 1.5 acre ecologically integrated farm in Bell, California where food fuels health, hope and happiness. GrowGood works alongside the Bell Shelter for homeless individuals and presents shelter clients with opportunities to receive employment training, access mental and physical welfare programs, and experience the healing power of the outdoors and gardening within a city environment.

This week, GrowGood’s Farm Manager Francis River chatted with Maya Reddy, Yardzen Sustainability Intern, and shared his insightful perspectives on hardship, healing, and horticulture.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work at GrowGood?

Francis River. Photo by Ambrea Kai.

Francis River. Photo by Ambrea Kai.

There are so many rewarding aspects working at GrowGood. But the highlight has to be having the opportunity to work with the residents of the Bell Homeless Shelter. That community has really embraced our little farm in Southeast Los Angeles. The experience of connecting over food, whether growing it or consuming it, brings communities together. I look forward to engaging with our community and showing them how connecting with the earth promotes wellness. Just walking through the farm or sitting amongst our fruit trees helps residents feel relaxed. Knowing they have this safe space that helps keep their mind healthy and we’re able to supply residents with fresh produce is such a beautiful experience.

Do you envision more people growing their own food and/or supporting local farms and community gardens in the near future? 

I’ve already noticed a lot of residents and volunteers who have started to grow their own food. I see restaurants also looking to source locally here and working with urban farms, which is amazing. This is happening more and more in the city now. I think this past year with everyone at home and how there was even more of a spotlight on food insecurity being such a global issue, more and more are looking into how they can grow their own food and/or get involved locally with farms close to them.

How can we stay motivated to engage with nature while living in a world that largely operates indoors? 

A woman sorting dried medicinal herbs

GrowGood volunteer, Pilar, helping dry medicinal herbs. ⠀

I think taking a moment and being mindful of what’s around you is really key. This falls in line with GrowGood’s meditation and mindfulness class for Bell Homeless Shelter residents called Food For Life. It offers a chance for those attending to take a moment and be within nature, listen to what’s around you. You can do this anywhere. While sitting at your kitchen table, listening to the mocking birds and wind outside. Going for a short walk around your neighborhood. Volunteering at a local farm like GrowGood so you can get to know your local community and give back in the process. Living here in the city, it’s amazing how much nature directly supports mental health and reduces anxiety. It should be motivation enough knowing how it can create healthy minds and bodies.

Francis’s words are a true testament to the transformative power of the outdoors; an idea that Yardzen wholeheartedly believes in. GrowGood’s incredible work in connecting healthy and sustainable food development with social growth and healing is a reminder that a brighter tomorrow is being forged today, and that all of us can contribute to a culture that values the appreciation of our surroundings as well as our communities.

To get involved with GrowGood, subscribe to their newsletter, explore their list of upcoming events, and follow them on Instagram!

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