community garden
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
March 21, 2020 ·  4 min read

How One Man Turned His Backyard Garden Into a Full-Fledged Community Farmers Market

“I looked around the city and wondered what I would feed my newborn daughter. It became clear that I needed to create it myself. So I hurried to build a vegetable garden.” – Jamiah Hargin

Jamiah Hargins was unaware that he was about to revolutionize his neighborhood when he moved to the West Adams area in Los Angeles in 2015. The only thing he thought he was creating was a simple backyard garden to produce fruits and vegetables for his wife Ginnia, his daughter Triana, and him to enjoy. 

However, he underestimated his gardening abilities and the reaping of the little plot, and he harvested more food his family could eat before it spoils. He didn’t want these hard-earned lemons, beans, and herbs to go to waste, so Jamiah posted the local social media platform Nextdoor to see if anyone was interested in crop swapping.

Fifteen people showed up to the swap, lugging pumpkins, artichokes, onions, and kale from their backyards or container gardens. Everyone went home with a nice variety of produce.

“I was delighted by how many people were willing to meet strangers on a Sunday morning,” Jamiah says.

The group exchanged more than food; they discussed gardening and branched off into weightier topics. 

But then we started talking about growing food and the importance of social equality,” says Kristen Kloc, a local who thought she’d give out some extra oranges and go home, unexpecting any form of neighborly bonding.

The group grew from fifteen people to about one hundred, all in Jamiah’s backyard. Jamiah knew it was time to make this meetup official and called it Crop Swap LA. This organization goes beyond a simple crop swap now; it’s evolved into a weekly farmer’s market with live music and over 20 vendors, as well as gardening workshops for kids. Of course, the crop swap occurs about every week. The first one was last December and included ten stalls, live music, food trucks, and free yoga classes. The location has, of course, moved from Jamiah’s backyard to the Seeds of Carver Community Garden.

The members of Crop Swap help their neighbors begin their own gardens, led by expert landscape gardener Brendan Wilson.

Crop Swap’s goal is to use every available are of West Adams to grow food, whether it’s in containers on business rooftops, in parking lots, on front lawns, wherever. The aim is to make this so-called food desert into a vibrant and healthy community with resident involvement and companionship.

More About Jamiah

Jamiah grew up in a military family, to which he acclaims his natural openness to people. “This is important because our food movement is more versatile in the long run if we can adapt to the uniqueness in our population,” he said in an interview with Voyage LA.

He spent much of his professional life so far in finances, then he moved to Brazil to manage a social enterprise for rural agriculture, then he returned to Columbia University, then he became an executive search headhunter to find people for different educative roles. “This became excellent training for what I’m doing now, which requires me to build out a team, delegate those rules, and ensure that everyone is the right person for the right task.

My journey has helped me learn new skills and experiences that help me with the West Adams Crop Swap.

How to Participate in Crop Swap LA

If you’re interested in joining the swap, here are a few things you should know.

Crop Swap LA values the importance of not only organic food but nutrient grown food. They believe in high quality to fulfill people’s nutritional needs. On their website, they describe their ideal produce as:

  1. Enriched, and tested soil, for perfect mineral and nutrient composition”
  2. Free of pesticides or any GMO seed usage”
  3. “Cared-for with methods described by biochemist and horticulturist Dr. Jana Bogs”

As they claim: “Grown this way, veggies and fruit are easier to ingest into the body, provide us with nutrients we need and will last longer in your refrigerator.” 

The organization also stresses the importance of rainwater harvest in Los Angeles’s dry climate. This system involves capturing rainwater for future irrigation use as a sustainable way of preserving water. 

Nature offers an abundance of chances to regain control of our food, money, social habits, and environment,” the website states.

Finding a Sense of Community

While Jamiah is now recognized as the founder and sometimes “the Crop Swap guy,” his connection with his new community is his most valued aspect of this organization.

“Individualism can only get you so far. When you work together, you’re undefeatable,” he says. [4]

Keep Reading: Want to Help Bees? Leave the Dandelions Alone This Spring

  1. Jamia Hargins. Meet Jamiah Hargins of West Adams Crop Swap in Mid City, Westside. Voyage LA. December 9, 2019
  2. Crop Swap LA. What We’re About. February 25, 2020