Just how much trouble can one community garden start? For starters, three years of court proceedings, two eviction notices, one assault charge, countless allegations of corruption, and $16 million worth of fundraising.  Even with all the legal crap, the gardeners still had to pay for manure.

Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Garden,”  tells the story of a 14-acre plot in Los Angeles that became a community garden in 1992, a community-building effort undertaken in the wake of the Rodney King riots.  For 12 years, the South Central Farm operated in relative peace on city-owned property, providing lots for 347 predominantly Latino families, and laying claim to the title of “the largest community garden in the country.” Not bad for a city known more for its traffic congestion than its open spaces.

But in late 2003, in a closed-door session, the L.A. City Council sold the property to a real estate developer for $5 million. The buyer promptly posted eviction notices at the garden, effective in February 2004.  But instead of packing it all in, the South Central Farmers decided to fight the property sale for their right to grow food in that space.

At this point in the narrative, the film starts to be less about the need for urban community gardens and more about the particular brand of corrupt politics in L.A. that was willing to sacrifice the garden for money, storage units, and soccer fields (yes, soccer fields, you’ll have to watch the film to understand).  Kennedy includes many shots of smiling gardeners tending to their plots, but provides little substance about the value that a garden can bring to a community.

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