Lead Stories

Cultivating an urban wilderness

"Cultivating an urban wilderness" Continued...

Kelley stopped by one garden bed, in which a tight, creamy bud of cauliflower peeked out among vast leaves. “Sometimes I wonder if I should just help them out,” she said, bending over the cauliflower head and gathering the leaves around it into a loose bunch. “If you don’t tie the leaves together around the head, that’s what happens,” she explained, pointing to another cauliflower nearby that had sprouted wild and loose. When too much sunlight hits the young head, it loses its sweet tenderness and becomes ricey and inedible.

It’s just one example that shows urban farming takes a bit more than raw passion. That’s where educators like Gerber step in.

Since 2009, Gerber has offered gardening lectures for seniors at the Torrance Memorial Medical Center in the South Bay region of Los Angeles. Last year, she resurrected an abandoned community garden to add a hands-on component. Unlike the senior gardening classes, workdays at her learning garden are open for people of all ages.

Right now, winter batches of bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, peas and beets sprout in the garden. In time, Gerber hopes to expand the program to provide enough food for the hospital’s cafeteria. She also hopes to create a gardening space for physical therapy and healing.

Although teaching won’t make her rich, Gerber recalls swelling with pride when one of her students finally looked a stranger in the eye and called herself a gardener. 

“I know it sounds really hokey, but it feels like you’ve changed somebody’s life when you hear things like that,” she said. “There’s no amount of money that will give you that sort of gratification.”

Sophia Lee
Sophia Lee

Sophia is a features reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in print journalism and East Asian language and culture. She lives in Los Angeles with her cat, Shalom. Follow Sophia on Twitter @SophiaLeeHyun.

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