About eight years ago, in preparation for the birth of his daughter, Reies Flores of Glassell Park began a small garden in his backyard. He started with some basic fruits and vegetables and a few chickens.
“I had read about all that was going on in the food industry and I wanted to provide her with something better,” Flores said.
Now, almost by happenstance, that personal initiative has flourished and Flores is sharing his locally raised bounty with a growing number of his Northeast Los Angeles neighbors.
He is the man behind The CityFarm, a modest agricultural industry operating on one acre of land off Loma Lada Drive, nestled between Glassell Park and Mount Washington.
Born and raised in Glassell Park, Flores leased the hillside real estate about one year ago from his neighbor, artist Yoshua Okon, who had purchased it in an effort to prevent development.
Along with Daniel Moreno, owner of DTM Construction in Mount Washington, Flores took a slow and steady approach to establishing The CityFarm.
“We tried to do everything at the lowest cost possible," Moreno said. "We found a great deal on a fence in Brentwood through Craigslist. The only catch was we had to go the guy’s place and take it down ourselves. So, this has been done through a lot of sweat equity.”
Moreno volunteers his skills to the farm, which he considers a labor of love.
“It’s so beautiful up here,” he said.
The CityFarm is currently home to about 30 chickens and eight ducks. In terms of flora, Flores has planted gopher resistant olive and citrus plants, the roots of which are either too bitter or too sour for the hungry pests. Flores has also planted figs, mulberry and pomegranates.
Sumac and Lemonade Berry are also prevalent on the land as well, the latter of which provides a surprisingly bittersweet treat to visitors.
Despite the lack of aggressive marketing, The CityFarm has caught on with Flores’ neighbors. The normally abandoned lot at the end of Loma Lada Drive was packed with cars on a recent Sunday afternoon and several more pedestrians filed into the farm to purchase fresh eggs.
Others, mostly those with young children, camped out near the ducklings for extended fawning sessions.
Flores said that, while he indeed hopes his egg trade will be profitable, lookie loos are more than welcome, too.
A substitute teacher at , Flores said he makes a conscious effort to educate visitors about sustainable agriculture.
“We want to help people experience nature, and we want to educate them about how what they are getting here is better for the animals, and better for them, than what they are used to getting.”
Jenny Rivera, Flores’ wife, runs an educational booth with their daughter Malia, which provides visitors with various egg related factoids, which range from cute to downright illuminating.
Did you know, for example, that if an egg floats, it’s probably rotten?
Among those who had made to trip to the farm on Sunday was Max Haberman, a longtime Mount Washington local who said she’s been walking in the neighborhood for years, but only recently discovered City Farm.
“I’ve lived here for 21 years and I usually walk down to the lot and then turn around because there’s graffiti tagged everywhere,” Haberman said. “I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to go home and bake with duck eggs.”
Despite the growing popularity of City Farm, Flores’ has remained as modest in his mission as he was nearly a decade ago when he began readying a fresh harvest for Malia.
“I know I can’t feed everybody, but I can feed some people in this corner of Los Angeles,” he said. “That’s a good start.”