Los Angeles’ Little Farms

6273What words come to your mind when someone says, “Los Angeles”?

Were “farms” or “farming” on your list? Farms are where farming – growing crops (plants grown for food) or livestock (cows or other animals) – is done.

If not, don’t feel bad. Probably not many people think about farms or farming when they think about Los Angeles today. One hundred years ago it was different. From the early 1900s until the 1950s, farms and farming were an important part of life in Los Angeles County – the city of Los Angeles and the area around it. And Los Angeles County produced more food products than any other county in the U.S.

A new book – From Cows to Concrete (mixture of water, sand, and cement used to build things): The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles – written by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber tells the not-well-known story of farming in Los Angeles. I think it’s worth sharing (telling about).

The story begins many years ago, when California still belonged to Spain. Spanish settlers (people who moved here to live) discovered that the area around Los Angeles was a good place for growing things and established (started, created) Los Angeles as a food center for southern and central California. Even before that, the people who lived here harvested (gathered) crops that grew here naturally.

In the 1800s Los Angeles was California’s “first wine country,” long before Napa and Sonoma Valleys north of San Francisco became well-known for their vineyards (where grapes are grown) and wineries (where wine is made from grapes).

Citrus fruit – like lemons and oranges – quickly became one of the main crops in the Los Angeles area, and by the early 20th century, much of Southern California was full of citrus and other fruit trees. Farmers also grew vegetables – like cauliflower, celery, and tomatoes – berries, and even flowers. Immigrants from Holland raised milk cows and built dairies (places where milk is collected and milk products made). And keeping bees for honey was popular.

The growth of farming in the early 1900s was stimulated (helped) when people were encouraged to create neighborhoods where “small farm homes” were built on 1-3 acres (.4-1.2 hectares) of land so the homeowners could grow crops to eat and sell. During the Great Depression, the government helped people who moved to California to start some of these small neighborhood farms.

The number of these small farms grew from about 1,300 in the 1920s to 5,000 in the 1930s. In the early 1950s, there were 10,000 of these small farms in Los Angeles County. In 1940 the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (organization that encourages business) claimed that nearly half of the food Los Angeles ate came from farms within 50 miles (~80 km) of the city.

After World War II, many people moved to Los Angeles for jobs in aircraft and other new industries. Soon schools, shopping centers, streets, and freeways replaced most of the neighborhood farms. Most of them are gone today, but you can still find a few if you look in the right places.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo from UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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7 Responses to Los Angeles’ Little Farms

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    Dan here.
    After all the rain we had recently, not it’s starting to get hot and there are, expecially close to bodies of water, hordes of gnats that throw themselves into your eyes.
    And today, I have found inside the kitchen’s cabinet a bag of old rice with thousands of small insects so that I spent all afternoon religiously/surgically removing them one by one.
    That was exhausting but thanks to them I have cleaned all the kitchen.
    Now I am getting ready for the night shift.

    That’s right Warren, farming was not in my list of the first things coming to mind.
    One of the firsts things is this catastrophic image of a yuge earthquake followed by a monstrous tsunami that swallows half California…..sorry…

    I was looking at that picture and thinking that not only that model of farming is gone but also that kind of family, am I right? Unbelievable how things change so quickly!
    I do not know why, but I am almost unable to read a book anymore.
    I am not sure whether its me or the smartphone that it’s too distracting.
    I am no longer able to sit and focus on a book, my attention span decreased a lot. I like to blame the phone or maybe it’s laziness. Well at least I am aware of the problem and humbly confess that openly.


  2. Mari Carmen says:

    Hello guys

    The honey from Los Angeles must be tasteful. It is probably made of orange blossom.
    I mean, since there are crops of citrus trees, the main flavour come from those beautiful and fragant flowers, is it right?
    I would like to try it. I love honey!

    Thank you, bye

  3. moraima cano says:

    The Napa´s wine is a clear example of the special product of this land. The grapes that are produced in Napa Valley California are very special because in nowhere else in the worl there are quality grapes such as the grapes that grown there.

  4. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hello Mari, reading your comment about honey from citrus fowers, you should taste honey from eucalyptus flowers. In my opinion it is the best. Honey from coffeetree is good as well. In Brazil we have a lot of tree flowers whose honey taste sweet. Good to live in Brazil. Come and check out.
    From Brazil
    Just me

  5. Mari Carmen says:

    Hey Aecio,

    Eucayptus honey is very sweet, but I personally prefer honey that comes from bush trees flowers such as rosemary, thyme and lavender.

    I like a lot the honey from a land in Castile called La Alcarria, althought the best I have ever taken was a home-made honey of a little village of Badajoz, Extremadura in the West area of Spain, close to Portugal.


    P.S. Except for lavender, I assume that I had to look up in the dictionary the words of the flowers so I’ve learned two more words!

  6. Peter says:

    What a trip down the history line.
    A fruity post indeed :)))))))( pun intended )

    Dear Warren
    There is not much rain in LA and its suburbs. By that I mean the areas surrounding LA.
    I may be a bumpkin not knowing about agrarian and cultivation but near as I can tell LA is still an agrarian society
    With round -the-year equatorial heat and sunshine
    I mean , it is a no brainer
    One look at the city u can tell there must be too much agricultural thingy going on around here.
    However , one thing that bagels me is how on earth they water the corps
    It is of a paramount importance that they have a irrigation system in place.
    However , as much as it is always sunny in California, there is not always rainy in California.
    I mean ,not mush of rain fall going on down there throughout the year.
    All I m trying to say here is
    it is a known-fact that California grows fruit abd vegetables in particularly ” oranges.”
    California orange orchards are famouse
    Man , very tasty oranges
    Al though , they are too big
    It is a challenge to eat one whole orange in one sitting

    It is a two serving kind of fruit
    I m Telling u.
    But , God , they are tasty
    We r one of the biggest Importers of those bad a.s oranges
    Having said that , my favourite is
    California peach with the pronounced vertical cleft across the fruit
    U don’t need a knife to split the fruit
    The cleft has good grip

    If u ask me ,It is all about the peculiar weather condition down there which is conducive to those kinds of corps
    And the soil is very rich in minerals which is vital for corps growth
    All u need to do is to keep hoeing the damn soil.
    Lack of rain is a puzzlers
    Any body knows how the corps down there get irrigated
    Irrigation must be sth of a challenge down there.
    A Irrigation system is paramount to the grow any type of corps

    The perpetuate mild temperature down there is the best environment for a certain vegetables and fruit

    Agriculture is a big thing down there


  7. Dan says:

    Hello guys..

    As I was headed to the supermarket, walking on this path that follows the lakeshore, a part for the gnats, it is that time of the year when you can see little new ducklings and others
    little aquatic birds..they are so sweet and cute..very lovely sight.

    I had a brilliant idea…I think the city of LA should bring back those little plots of lands scorrere all across the area and make…..politicians, gang members, young students work those fields.
    I think that there is only to gain from such experiment on any level and angle you look at it.

    I know…I am smart….


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