Life from the Edible Apartment

| October 1, 2015 | 2 Comments
Urban farmista Jill Volat in her front yard farm.

Urban farmista Jill Volat in her front yard farm.

In my first assignment of Life from The Edible Apartment, I could dive right into technical facts and figures about this new neighborhood urban farm, give you a couple tips and recipes, and call it a day.  But this is not the typical garden, nor am I the typical gardener, so it’s probably best to start with what’s underneath the surface of this unique and magical garden.

I am second generation Angeleno.  My dad grew up in Miracle Mile and I grew up a few miles from here in West LA.  My fondest childhood memories with my father were times spent planting veggies and flowers in our suburban yard.  He wasn’t always the best communicator, but we somehow had a shared language in the garden.  Always the dreamer, I had this idea that “when I grew up” I’d have my own abundant and overflowing garden where I could create a community and host events and classes.  For some reason, as a little girl, I envisioned this happening by my 40th birthday.

Fast forward to “when I grew up,” I found myself in my mid 30s getting a divorce after long-term marriage, moving out of our single-family home (my son still lives there half the time with his dad) and heading “east” to an apartment that I could actually afford.  Suffice it to say that my “dream” of having my little urban farm by age 40 could not have seemed further away.  After some resentment, frustration and (lets face it) a short-lived though intense pity party, I dusted myself off, and decided to make things work no matter what.  That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps I was not meant to buy a parcel of land outside of LA and go the traditional way of farming.  Maybe I was meant to do something completely unconventional (which would be more my style anyway), and realize my dream from a different approach altogether.

Edible-Apartment-1Looking at the unused lawn in front of my apartment building with a new perspective and enthusiasm and determined to give my son some version of the gardening I enjoyed as a kid, I began to see the entire thing take shape.  Rather than kill myself to save a ton of money over the next twenty years to get back into a single-family house, I could immediately realize my dream right outside my front door.  I could remove the lawn, plant a myriad of veggies and flowers, and, as they say, grow where I was planted.  I presented the idea to the building owner, Henry Ealy, and to my elated surprise, he said yes.

Jill Volat with her landlord Herny Ealy in the front yard.

Jill Volat with her landlord Henry Ealy in the front yard.

The result – in just four month’s time – has been nothing short of miraculous.  We broke ground on May 9th and what was once neglected grass is now a thriving urban farm in the middle of the city.  We have beautified the building, brought the residents together, and created a sense of optimism, curiosity and community in the neighborhood.  Through the project’s presence on social media, I’ve received emails from people in the U.S. and around the world asking how I did it, and if I’d even travel to show them how to create their own Edible Apartment where they live.  I’m currently applying for the project to become a non-profit so that I can duplicate this model in as many apartment buildings as possible, hopefully around the world, and have applied for a $100,000 grant from LA2050 to build more Edible Apartments around LA.

I am, in short, ecstatic, and living the dream that I envisioned as a little girl.  It’s amazing to me that I could experience this reality right outside my front door, in the middle of the city on land that I don’t even own.  And yes, it all came together just one month shy of my 40th birthday.

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In my next article I’ll share all the technical details about bringing this project to life, and how you can do it in your own home, too.  I love cooking, so there will be plenty of recipes as well.  For now, I hope you are inspired in some way to bring your own dream into reality, even if it ends up looking nothing like you originally planned.

The Edible Apartment will be a featured project at the Los Angeles Community Garden Council’s Ninth Annual Gathering of Community Gardens in Pasadena on Oct. 3rd and has been invited by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council to present at National Food Day at City Hall on Oct. 26th.  We are hosting a Floral & Herbal Oils Class on Oct. 17th and a Fall Farm-to-Table Dinner on Oct. 10th.  Please visit TheEdibleApartment.com to learn more or be in touch.

Volat (l) with local residents who helped in the garden.

Volat (l) with local residents who helped in the garden.

 

Some of the bounty from the urban farm.

Some of the bounty from the urban farm.

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About Jill Volat

Jill Volat is the founding executive director of The Edible Apartment, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that re-purposes underutilized land (particularly on apartment building properties) into organic urban farms, with the purpose of creating a sustainable food source, building community and promoting health. The mission of the organization is also to partner with Veterans, teens and rehabilitation facilities to share the healing benefits and optimism that the simple act of building a garden brings. Please visit www.TheEdibleApartment.org to learn how you can get involved. Jill may be reached at jill@TheEdibleApartment.org

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Category: Featured, Larchmont Village People

Comments (2)

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  1. It has been my great pleasure to watch the birth of this garden and to know the woman. Jill is exceptionally gifted in many areas. Her passion to bring homegrown food to the neighborhoods of Los Angeles is a focused and loving endeavor whose time has come.

  2. Kelebek T says:

    Jill is my kind of dreamer–she follows that dream and let’s it show her how to make it come true. I’m inspired.

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