The Home Growers Circle: Real people with a passion to grow real food

Ethel & Bill Robert Charmaine & Brian Brandon Nancy Lewis & Tara Malika & Donny Andy & Susanna Craig & Gary Warren & Lovejoy

Lewis & Tara / Santa Monica

The Westside's county inspector and me


Tuesday, June 01, 2010 at 9:54PM

I knew from the first telephone contact, our county inspector was a gentleman, a true aristocrat, who spoke with deep rolling Rís and pronounced his first name with soft Aís. Only nicer and more engaging but no less courtly, Adam Herrera reminded me of Juan Valdez, El Exigente, "the demanding one," of the Savarin coffee commercials from the 1960s and 70s. I was not disappointed.

At the outset of the site inspection, it took a bit of explaining why we'd become a certified producer if we don't exactly have the harvest quantities suitable for vending at farmersí markets. I broke into a nervous sweat thinking the correct explanation might be the deciding factor for his approval. I explained that becoming certified would enable us to become a supplier for this fantastic new restaurant called Forage. Was he familiar with the Slow Food movement or the trend toward seasonal cuisine? He slowly nodded yes as we worked our way through the garden and I felt saved, redeemed.

Maestro Herrera allowed himself a ripe loquat and an avocado to take for the road. He knew the difference between pitangas, chambas and could estimate the pounds of macadamia nuts to expect in the fall from the tree if it is successfully electrified in the ongoing battle royale with the squirrels. He suggested black zapote ice cream of his childhood in Honduras when I suggested they make nice bread and pudding. I hand picked and fed him Pakistani mulberries and Cherries of the Rio Grande until he begged me to stop.

When I suggested we wanted help from Chef Jason with how to handle the harvest from the ripening two-tree Java and Kona coffee crop, he quietly chuckled and said his grandfather (or was it great grandfather) introduced coffee to his native country and that a cousin recently won an award for growing the best coffee in the world!

I was tempted to ask him why he would leave coffee plantations and make his way to El Lay, but I refrained, sensing a touch of sadness and nostalgia. Besides, he had miles to go in his travels and I was risking running late for an appointment. That said, Adam Herrera brings honor to his department and is truly unforgettable. Thank you.

For 20 years Tara has been helping families in Los Angeles come out of the skid of separation and divorce, make sense of the blur they find themselves in and clear the path to a brighter future. Being with Lewis in his garden and involvement in the locavore movement is a blessing which helps her stay sane in the process. Tara blogs about families and relationships on the Huffington Post. You can learn more about her work at

Ways to support
urban farming
in Los Angeles

Community partners have stepped forward with ways you can support local growers:

We know how much everyone in this city loves the movies. Have you seen this one? The Garden is an Academy Award nominated documentary that tells the story of urban farmers who struggle against land developers to keep their community farm in South Central Los Angeles alive. This film offers a revealing look at the challenges of urban farming in a megacity once known for its agricultural output. The director of the film, Scott Hamilton Kennedy, is a Silver Lake resident and he has offered to not only sell DVDs of the film at a 10% discount, but also grant 10% of proceeds to support the certification fees of future participants of the Home Growers Circle. Buy a DVD and help us build support for an eleventh urban microfarmer. Maybe we'll have to ask one of the microfarmers to raise some corn so that we can make some home-grown movie popcorn. Click here to order a DVD and support the Home Growers Circle. Remember to use promotional code FORAGE.