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Sustainability Spotlight: Healing Earth, Mind and Body at the Gladys Avenue Urban Farm

Release Date: 2021-10-11

Gladys Avenue Urban Farm is on a mission to bring healing to natural ecosystems and local residents, while providing a space for family fun and education. The small-scale community-managed farm, located on Gladys Avenue just north of Anaheim Street, was originally purchased and maintained by Captain Charlie Moore. Moore is a long time devout environmentalist and founder of Long Beach Organic, Inc. and Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The farm’s current owner, Jan van Dijs maintains the farm with 11-12 volunteers. Van Dijs’s construction management company shares space with the farm and uses recycled materials on his projects and in the garden, including recycling the saw dust from his furniture shop for use in the garden plots.

"It is really awesome to have a business that coexists with a nonprofit and the community,” van Dijs says, “It utilizes the space really well, and doesn’t isolate the business from another or from the neighborhood itself.”

Centrally located, the Gladys Avenue Urban Farm is accessible to anyone in the neighborhood and surrounding communities. “Our local neighbors are like family, they can come and go as they please and harvest as many vegetables and eggs as they want,” volunteer Phil beamed. “People feel like the farm is their home, many local residents even have a key to the property.” Local residents are encouraged to drop off their compost to be processed at the farm and used as soil for the next harvest; a truly closed-loop system.

The Gladys Avenue Urban Farm also shares space with the MAYE Center, which has plots in the upper portion of the farm. The MAYE Center helps Cambodian refugees who suffer from PTSD caused by genocide and war by teaching healing through gardening, yoga, meditation, and education. The center serves as a safe space for survivors to connect with others that experienced similar trauma, heal through horticulture therapy, and learn new ways to connect with their minds and bodies. Laura Som, founder of the MAYE Center, views the farm as an “urban setting that creates business, while healing earth, mind and body.” The MAYE Center takes a holistic approach on healing and emphasizes that by connecting deeper with nature and the earth, we heal our inner selves as well as the environment and communities surrounding us. The MAYE Center’s plot on the Gladys Avenue Urban Farm helped provide 1400 families with farm-fresh food during the pandemic.

Community gardens yield healthy seasonal crops, provide habitat for local insects and birds, and bring a strong sense of community to surrounding neighborhoods. The Gladys Avenue Farm is an organic farm that relies on natural systems to maximize crop yield. Preying mantises roam the plots eating harmful insects, and crops are planted intentionally and rotated yearly, resulting in a highly productive, self-sufficient system. The farm’s permaculture model aims to work with nature to provide a bountiful harvest and eliminate harmful agricultural practices that are dangerous to human health and the health of the surrounding ecosystems. Fresh, local produce also eliminates packaging and long-distance transportation, thereby reducing carbon emissions and plastic pollution.

The farm is in the permitting process for food service on-site in hopes to host cookouts with farm fresh food and refreshments. To learn more about the Gladys Avenue Urban Farm, visit www.theurbanfarm-lb.com or follow them at @urbanfarm_lb on Instagram.