The Garden: This year’s must-see documentary

Continuing in the agricultural vein, I watched The Garden last night, and though I’ve seen plenty of good documentaries this year, this one gets my vote for the Academy Awards. Brief synopsis: The 14-acre community garden on 41st and Alameda in South Central Los Angeles, the largest community garden in the United States, has been tended and harvested by people in the neighborhood, mostly Chicanos, since 1992. Now a greedy developer (boo, hiss!) and several “community activists” and politicians (more booing and hissing, please) do some back-room deals that threaten the garden’s existence. The farmers get a crash course in the right kind of community activism as they attempt to keep the bulldozers from razing their site. Garden Rant called the film “riveting,” and I agree. They also encourage people to not only see the movie, but to hold screenings (click HERE to contact Black Valley Films to organize) so that lots of people can see it at once, talk about it, and perhaps start some activism of their own. 

This is a must-see movie for so many reasons, and should be viewed not just by gardening enthusiasts, locavores, and social justice activists, but by everyone. But I’m going to warn you, this is not a soft-focus, feel-good wander through an idyllic urban garden paradise where you learn about growing bananas and making salsa. This is a very well-done look at the nitty-gritty struggle between people who live on the margins of society (but who eat very well and live inspiringly close to the land) and those who don’t. The good news is that this movie has already won several awards and is up for an Academy Award, which is increasing viewings and therefore increasing awareness and activism. And if you feel like taking action before or after you see the movie, you can! Go to to learn more. Si se puede!

Here’s a great article by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) from, which is now on the South Central Farmers‘ website called “Turning Urban Deserts into Urban Oases.”

And if you’re looking for another great documentary about farming, watch The Real Dirt on Farmer John, too. Really, really good, and if you aren’t already a member of a CSA, you will want to be after watching this!