Organic Healing—It's Good for You

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I don't know if it's just the write-up or the project itself, but I couldn't help it: My eyes rolled involuntarily while reading the below Utne summary of a Yes Magazine article … What drug addicts in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles need is… organic gardening?? And no, it's not just Me, Myself, and I tunnelvision; I've donated much time and enthusiasm to community activism and support over the years.

From Utne:
?I have yet to meet a drug addict who harvests his own drugs,? writes certified master gardner Anna Marie Carter in a recent Yes Magazine essay. ?All this madness is imported by the tons to this community?daily!? In addition to drug addiction, Watts is plagued with some of the country?s highest crime and welfare recipiency rates and is among the fastest-growing HIV-positive populations nationwide. The citizens of Watts don?t even have access to California-grown produce. As a result of free trade, their staples are imported from South America and Mexico, where DDT is commonly used. To heal the community, Carter founded the Watts Garden Club, a nonprofit organization that teaches organic gardening in the city?s housing projects, community centers, schools, treatment programs, mental health facilities and shelters. In addition, Carter plants free organic gardens for people who suffer from many illnesses, including cancer, HIV and AIDS.
http://www.utne.com/webwatch/2003_33/news/10406-1.html

Of course, that's the great thing about volunteerism: You and you alone (and maybe the people you're trying to help) are the only necessary judge of whether you're making a valuable contribution to the community.

NEXT: Feeling Secure

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  1. This is why I long ago dumped Eric Utne’s rag for Reason. My eyes HURT from rolling at this one!

  2. The stupidity of such projects is enough to give the concept of grass-roots charity approaches to social problems a bad name.

    Does anyone think the amount of DDT consumed on the surfaces of fruits and vegetables is the number one health risk for people living in a high crime, high drug use, high AIDS infection-rate neighborhood? Apparently the answer is yes.

  3. ?I have yet to meet a drug addict who harvests his own drugs,?

    Ms Carter, may I introduce “Half of the Potheads on the Planet”…

  4. How is Utne pronounced, anyway? Is it “OOT-knee”?

  5. As the owner himself has said: “Utne rhymes with chutney”

  6. Gee, reading these comments, I feel like a leprachan who accidently wandered into hell.

    Ok, the woman is probably into spiritual arcana like setting up good vibration resonance grids or something, and she probably isn’t going to “save” the community.

    Still, for people living stressed-out lives in a concrete jungle like Watts, concentrating for a few hours a week on something like gardening probably isn’t going to do them any harm. Maybe a kid might become inspired to go on and study agriculture or something like that, who knows. Stranger things have happened.

    Can you dig it, man?

  7. How lovely it must feel to sit at your nifty little computer in your comfortable little home and write about the drivel you read on Utne’s website. Did you even bother to read the Yes Magazine article in its entirety?

    How quaint of you to play the part of Little Orphan Annie, rolling your eyes about the stupidity of grass roots organizations like the Watts Garden Project. What are you doing to make your community a better place?

    It must be nice to be so well educated that you can pick apart the Ms. Carter’s ignorant observation ?I have yet to meet a drug addict who harvests his own drugs.? Did it ever occur to you that perhaps this certified Master Gardener has never seen a pot plant growing in her neighborhood because the dealers make more money importing crack and heroin?

    How swell for you to be so privileged that the biggest problem in your world is how to pronounce Utne. How sad that it?s your best retort.

    You ask, “Does anyone think the amount of DDT consumed on the surfaces of fruits and vegetables is the number one health risk for people living in a high crime, high drug use, high AIDS infection-rate neighborhood?”

    I reply, “Does any one understand that the state of California has abandoned the people of Watts and refuses them access to decent food because they’re already dying anyway?”

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a bit of difference whether you’re right or I’m wrong, because neither of us intimately know the experience of living in Watts. Or, do you? If so, I would love to engage in rational discourse (key words being rational and discourse) about your experiences and how they shape your perspective.

    Erin Ferdinand
    Utne magazine

  8. Erin-
    You do make good points and I hope your post clears the air of flippancy. I would not want my conception of the perfect to be the enemy of the good, so I wish Ms. Carter all the luck and success she can garner. I think all readers of this forum should read the Yes article; there are very inspring anecdotes of kids whose energy is channeled into industrious,and dare I say it, microcaptialism projects instead of worse activities.

    To be honest, I don’t understand the point about the food coming from Mexico instead of California. I realize that some people choose macrobiotic diets, but I’m enough of a realist to recognize that such a lifestyle choice is certainly less convenient and probably more expensive and that it takes effort to maintain that lifestye. I say “go for it” to anyone who pursues that choice, and if we want to talk about structural political or cultural changes that will help enable this, good. If you are a true believer in organic gardening and holistic macrobiotic diets as a panacea, then like Don Quixote listing at the windmill, there you go.

    Let’s talk aggie policy: I thought California agriculture was infamous for the environmentlly devestating, US and Cali taxpayer price-supported and subsidized agribusinesses of the Imperial Valley – the desert irrigated to be the world’s fruit orchard by the diversion of the Colorado River. OK, maybe they don’t use DDT, but they do use Roundup. Please tell me, in the Utne worldview, how this is preferable to free trade that gets Americans (in Watts and elsewhere) access to lower priced food and farmers in Latin American countries access to fair market prices.

    Regards,
    Keith

  9. Thank you for your thoughts, Keith and Michael. I appreciate the opportunity for discussion.

    Honestly, I don’t know how to answer the questions about free trade and Roundup vs. DDT. I need to educate myself about these issues. Like you, I had always assumed that free trade provided farmers with a larger market and Americans with more variety for their diets.

    For me, the touchstone is not necessarily the global and ecological politics of the situation, but rather, the supposition that poor people can be subjected to sub-standard food because they are perceived as disposable.

    Recently, Anna Marie told me that in many of the markets in Watts, the odor of green, decaying meat permeates the store, yet people buy it because they believe it’s the best they can get. It’s her mission to show people that they can and do deserve better.

    Anna Marie has taught gardening to 3 generations of Crack addicts. Let me repeat: her students are the children and the grandchildren of her former students, all of whom were born addicted to Crack due to prenatal drug abuse.

    Anna Marie also teaches the children how to make and sell soap and some of these kids earn $500 a month ? more money than their addict parents make. Many of the children ask her to hold their money because their parents will take it away from them. So now she’s looking at opening a credit union for the children’s savings.

    I could go on all day about Anna Marie’s amazing contributions to Watts. She’s quite a remarkable woman. If anyone is interested in learning more, I highly suggest you contact her at the Watts Garden Club: 323-969-4740. I left a message on her voice mail and she called me right back!

    Peace.

    Your pal,
    Erin

  10. Joe, I started my previous note earlier in the day but sent it after your message posted, sorry you weren’t mentioned.

    Just a note to say I second your thoughts!!!

    y.p.e.

  11. Joe, I started my previous note earlier in the day but sent it after your message posted. Sorry you weren’t mentioned.

    Just a note to say I second your thoughts!!!

    y.p.e.

  12. Joe, I started my previous note earlier in the day but sent it after your message posted. Sorry you weren’t mentioned.

    Just a note to say I second your thoughts!!!

    y.p.e.

  13. Joe, I started my previous note earlier in the day but sent it after your message posted. Sorry you weren’t mentioned.

    Just a note to say I second your thoughts!!!

    y.p.e.

  14. What the hell’s wrong with people working side by side with their neighbors to do something good in their community? Not “individualist” enough for you?

    There are people in our country’s cities who are so poor, and who have such lousy food choices available to them, that the vegetables they can grow in 20 square feet of soil can make a serious difference in their kid’s nutrition.

    An aside – these are programs St. Guiliani shut down when he pushed to sell off vacant lots.

  15. Re “concentrating for a few hours a week on something like gardening probably isn’t going to do them any harm. Maybe a kid might become inspired to go on and study agriculture or something like that, who knows. Stranger things have happened.” I recall following that path, taking up cultivation instead of mere consumption, then organic gardening, applying to Ag college, going on to work in Natural Resource Management and finally funding some projects for unemployed kids to resore degraded creeks in depressed areas. Truth can be as strange as fiction. And it sure beats whinging about crystal-hugging lefties!

  16. I like pressing the shiny, beautiful, gleaming, splendiferous “post” button. It makes me happy.

    meehaw

    E. P. E.

  17. Come to Watts and say what you have to say in my face. I am surrounded by housing projects and will let everyone know you are here, when you arrive. We will go outside next to our greenhouse to our stage and put you front and center and will listen to all of you thoughts, views and comments. I will personally feed you some organic pesto, pasta , bread ( we make ourselves) and filtered water before I escort you out of Watts, unharmed.
    I will be waiting! Anna Marie Carter aka “The Seed Lady of Watts”

  18. My dogs breath smells like dog food. She has a row of teets too.

  19. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    IP: 62.233.153.154
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/20/2004 04:06:51
    Often the test of courage is not to die, but to live.

  20. It has been a long time. Update-No takers on my invitation to come to Watts…..We have set the “standard” for the World to follow re: Organic Agriculture. Now own 3 organic farms in America. Have 2 of the largest heirloom seed banks in the Western Hemisphere. Have the highest college graduate count in Watts history. Have just gone into full scale organic agribusiness – Organic Food, In the ‘Hood, For the ‘Hood, By the ‘Hood, featuring HOME DELIVERY.

    And on top of all this – WE ARE KOSHER,Baby! How do YOU like US now?…whatever it is – WE DO NOT CARE!

    “We are winners baby
    And never let anybody say…
    Oh you can’t make it,
    or let other’s peoples lies get in your way.
    No more tears shall we cry,
    because we have finally dried our eyes…
    And we’re moving on up! Movin’ on up!
    Lord have mercy,
    WE are moving on UP.”
    Curtis Mayfield
    Hit and Run that!

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