Residents raise funds to save community garden 

By Ariyana Griffin 

Contributing Writer

COMPTON — The Compton Community Garden hosted a fundraiser May 6 with hopes of raising enough money to bid on the land it stands on. This fundraising effort stems from a “for sale” sign being hung on the garden’s gate  April 1.

Community members gathered at the event which had a series of vendors, musicians and community resources, all working towards the goal of raising awareness and money for the cause. 

Michael Frey, the owner of MFprintplus, is a T-shirt printer. When he heard about the garden, he wanted to use his resources to help out. 

“I volunteered my time just to help try to print all the tees to spread the word,” he said. He printed T-shirts that were sold at the event and every dollar went towards buying the land back. Supporters could purchase with cash, Venmo or donate directly to the garden’s GoFundMe page.

A bid has been placed on the land by an outside developer for $488,000, and the garden is trying to raise $600,000 to counter the offer and “cover the sale of the land plus any taxes and expenses,” according to the GoFundMe page. “We were devastated; after making some calls, we realized how very real this was,” the statement said. “Our beloved garden — a free and truly communal urban garden feeding free food to the people of Compton for over a decade — was for sale, without warning or consideration to the humans serving this nor the communities, ecosystems and lives this would impact right here in Compton and North Long Beach.”

Residents raised more than $100,000 in 24 hours to prevent the land from being sold. The green space, located at 1317 S. Long Beach Blvd., has been a resource to the community, which sits in the middle of a food desert. 

Jasmin Walters, a supporter of the garden, explained the significance of green spaces in urban areas. 

“It’s important for Black people, [people of color], impoverished people, people who traditionally don’t have capital to have this connection to the land,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful symbol in their community that it’s public and it’s cared for by so many hands.” 

Sherridan Ross, a founder of the garden, explained that before they developed the area in 2013, the lot was vacant and abandoned. 

“This land here had sat vacant for 19 years,” he said. “ It took us four months to clean the weeds off. When we cleaned it, we asked for volunteers and we got 600 volunteers for a weekend.

“The garden has thrived on community volunteers from the beginning. They helped build the garden beds, benches and maintain the land. 

“What we do is that a lot of times people will come by and they don’t have any food source, we’ll give them food. We produce enough food here to probably fill a grocery store every other week,” Ross said. 

Throughout the 10 years that the garden has been in operation, organizers have held several food giveaways, workshops and concerts. The garden even provides jobs for teenagers during the summer. 

“Even during the pandemic, when everything was closed down, we fed 100 families a week off of this garden,” Ross said. 

Ross explained that the land has always been up for sale but the garden had an understanding with the owner.

“He worked with us and basically our rent was that we would grow vegetables for him, and that was what we paid for rent.” Ross said. “He had this land bundled with two other plots, and they didn’t sell as a bundle. And so what he did was that he took them apart and he put signs up individually in each one of them, and unfortunately this one sold.” 

The community began to advocate for the green space, fearing that the developer would replace it with a building. Residents and supporters attended the Compton City Council meeting May 2, to spread awareness and to share their concerns. 

“If we get the money to save the garden, we’ll have the garden here. If not, the city is working with us now, so that we will actually have land which will be available. So we can actually transition this whole garden to another site,” Ross said.

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