Sasha Kanno is the eternal optimist.
The founder and farmer of Farm Lot 59, an organic farm, retail spot and education center that sits on a one-acre site surrounded by oil fields, is absolutely convinced that the people of this city need a business like hers.
“I’m just a one-woman show here,” she said. “It’s a very expensive operation. We are looking for a grant to fund it. (Long Beach) Park and Rec is supposed to do some improvements to the area. Some improvements need to happen to re-open the stand.”
Created in 2010, and located at 2714 California Ave., Farm Lot 59 has historical ties to the city’s past. According to the University of California’s Urban Agriculture website, the property is one of the last remnants of a 20-acre farm lot subdivided by the American Colony Tract in the late 1800s.
One challenge in developing the farm was the elevated levels of arsenic in the soil. Much of it was replaced with sterile fill dirt donated by the city. Almost all of the planting is done in raised beds.
“It’s just me and friends and family and volunteers working the farm right now,” she said. “People love this farm. Even if they don’t volunteer.”
Kanno says that while she loves having a store on-site — it has been open and closed since 2013 — she will not be re-opening the retail operation until she has better funding.
Last Saturday, Farm Lot 59 hosted its quarterly Farm Party. Around 80 people showed up to listen to musicians and eat farm-fresh food prepared by Chef David Coleman — the former executive chef of Michael’s Restaurant Group who is now at the Breakers Hotel.
“I’m here to support Sasha as a friend and as a local restaurant person,” Coleman said as he prepared a salad made with herbs and vegetables grown at Farm Lot 59. “We’ve been working together for 10 years. I really support local farming.”
First-time supporters and long-time friends came out Saturday night for the festivities. Jade and Kevin Michini came from Venice.
“It’s nice to know there are spaces like this in urban communities,” Kevin Michini said. “We are all about supporting small, local grown produce.”
Jeff Siljenberg and Whitney Jones have been long-time supporters of Kanno and would love to see the farm stand reopened.
“We would shop here, definitely,” Siljenberg said. “We shopped at the stand before. It’s really cool, it’s like an oasis here. It would be worthwhile to support this type of venture.”
Comments like that are what keep Kanno stubbornly optimistic.
“When people come here, they say, ‘I feel like I’m in northern California’ or ‘I’ve never been on a farm,’ ” Kanno said. “People really embrace this place.
“The problem with the farm stand is basically we are just on the side of the road on California Avenue. I’m hoping to have more of a welcoming entrance. The goal is to reopen with funding in 2020. It just needs a lot of love. I just refuse to accept the fact that this town cannot support one thriving community farm.”
For more information about Farm Lot 59, go to www.farmlot59.org