Alma Backyard Farms accompanies the formerly incarcerated as they journey through the wilderness of urban life post-incarceration.
Rooted in restorative justice and environmental stewardship, Alma Backyard Farms started in 2013 as a way to reclaim lives, repurpose land and reimagine community. The women and men who work at Alma Backyard Farms have committed themselves to giving back as part of their effort to return home. Through urban farming, participants have the chance to attain gainful employment, become self-sufficient and reconnect their lives back into the fabric of society. Alma Backyard Farms proposes real solutions to the challenges of California’s overcrowded prisons and food injustice in low-income neighborhoods.
Recognizing that no lives or land are to be wasted, Alma Backyard Farms creates opportunities for the previously incarcerated to become agents of health, safety and community, increasing access to nutritious options in food deserts. In this way, urban farming helps everyone involved explore the relationships between plants, animals and humans as a way to create a profound connection to both nature and their community.
Alma Backyard Farms offers three programs to empower women and men who were previously incarcerated:
- Urban Farmer Training
The Urban Farmer Training Program offers project-based education for participants to develop skills in horticulture. In learning about the relationship between urban farming and ecology, participants learn to build systems that improve the environment.
- Food Sharing
The Food Sharing Program distributes its harvest of fresh vegetables with partners and agencies that transform the food into healthy meals for families in need.
- Horticultural Therapy
The Horticultural Therapy Program explores the potential of each individual and accompanies participants in their struggle for change and growth.
Alma Backyard Farms was inspired by the voices and ideas shared by juvenile offenders and prisoners eager to transform their lives by “giving back” to the communities they “took from” – and were taken away from. For most people experiencing incarceration, there are few opportunities to interact with nature and nurture others. Alma Backyard Farms creates multiple opportunities for women and men who were incarcerated to give back to the health and safety of communities by growing food for these communities.
In the spirit of food justice, Alma Backyard Farms grows food in historically disenfranchised neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. These neighborhoods are often food deserts, where healthy and nutritious foods are difficult to find. Food insecurity has reached crisis proportions in LA County, with the potential to have significant negative impacts on health and well-being across the life span, including impairing growth and development among children, increasing risks for depression and other mental health conditions among adolescents and contributing to malnutrition and worsened medical conditions in the elderly. Having access to nutritious, affordable and quality food is essential to the well-being of individuals and the communities in which they live.
Through its urban farming model, Alma Backyard Farms is committed to making healthy and nutritious food available to lower-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles with majority Latino and African-American populations. One example of this is Alma’s operations in Compton, CA, where the organization is scaling up its urban farming as part of its fight against food insecurity. In partnership with St. Albert the Great Parish in Compton, Alma Backyard Farms is creating opportunities for members of the Compton community to learn innovative farming methods and skills so they can build a future of food security. The new 1/4 acre urban farm is set to be in operation in 2017 and will be a space for growing food and a venue for strengthening the community.
The organization grows local, organic and sustainable food in re-purposed land throughout Los Angeles utilizing high-yield raised bed methods. A portion of its harvest is shared with partners and agencies that prepare the food into healthy meals for families in need, and a portion is sold to restaurants with seasonal menus. Alma Backyard Farms also provides raised bed garden installations for individuals and families interested in growing their own food.
With its expertise, Alma Backyard Farms helps communities develop their edible landscape while generating revenue for the organization to continue its services for high-risk youth and the formerly incarcerated. Over the last 2 years, they’ve provided employment opportunities to 20+ people, who have graduated with skills in urban farming and professionalism.