A new business plan — urban agriculture — is growing for residents living in Carmelitos Public Housing, at 711 East Via Wanda, and the surrounding North Long Beach community.
The Community Development Foundation (CDF) launched the UrbanAg Business Training Program on Sept. 15, and for the next year, eight to 10 residents will meet every Saturday at Carmelitos’s on-site 7-acre urban garden, the Growing Experience, to learn about basic agricultural and business methods.
“It’s been great — they’ve really sunk their teeth into this,” said CDF Executive Director Jennifer Blackwell-Trotter. “It’s something unusual, but they’re holding on to it and really enjoying it.”
This Saturday, Sept. 29, also kicks off the Growing Experience’s first-ever farmers’ market, which will be every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the garden.
With its mission to improve the lives of low-income participants, CDF works with the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County (which owns and operates Carmelitos), to bring programs such as UrbanAg Business to enrich and educate its residents.
“With the economy the way it is, there’s a lot of people who are struggling to find jobs,” Blackwell-Trotter said. “They are wanting fresh food, and we’ve been so encouraged by the local food movement going on in Long Beach. That’s where idea grew from.”
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, as part of a grant that works to reduce diabetes in low-income communities, funds the program, she added.
“They will work together every Saturday,” Blackwell-Trotter said. “They will take classes on agriculture, growing and harvesting methods, as well as the business side from professionals from the University of California Cooperative Extension.”
At the end of the yearlong program, the residents will devise a business model, such as how to own and operate a farmers’ market, creating healthy juices or working in the restaurant field, with the hope that they will be able to take their new skills to find a way to support themselves and their families, while promoting good health and eating habits.
“They will have the knowledge to grow their own business and help Long Beach become more healthy,” Blackwell-Trotter said.
CDF also supplies youth programs and gives scholarships to middle and high school students, as well as adults looking to expand their education, as an incentive for residents to become self-sufficient and eventually move out of low-income housing.
Carmelitos residents have been focused on healthy eating for a while, especially with the Growing Experience’s year-round Community Supported Agriculture Program, that grows seasonal fruits and vegetables. Residents can purchase a 10-pound monthly, weekly or biweekly box of the food grown from the garden.
“In grocery stores, produce is shipped from around the world,” Blackwell-Trotter said. “You don’t know if what you’re buying is in season or not.”