garden inside abandoned warehouse

Community Center Grows Food In Abandoned Warehouse Garden

July 29, 2016

I recently visited a community center that was doing something really cool. They had taken an old abandoned warehouse and converted it into a large indoor community garden. They were already dealing with a lot of disadvantaged youth from the neighborhood and they gave each of them a small plot inside this garden warehouse. The children are completely responsible for the plants they planted, for taking care of them, for doing most of the landscaping and for harvesting whatever fruits or vegetables they may grow.

Just having this little bit of responsibility has made a huge different difference in their lives. But what also helped them was seeing food being grown in front of their eyes. These were inner-city children who had never witnessed something like this. What sounds completely mundane to a farmer or anyone who’s been out of the city, must have seemed like a complete miracle to these kids.

garden inside abandoned warehouse

A garden planted in an old warehouse. By Roland zh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Now obviously growing a huge garden like this is not going to be cheap. The largest expense, of course, are the lights. Plants need light and they don’t get any of it inside a dark warehouse. Not much at least. That’s where the community really came together.

Donations poured in from all over the region that allowed the community center to buy grow lights and all the other equipment they needed. First they bought simple T5 fluorescent tubes, but they soon realized that these were not very efficient. They ended up switching to MH bulbs during vegging and HPS bulbs during flowering. This was much more efficient but it also created a lot of heat and ate a lot of power. But these lights were relatively inexpensive.

The donations kept pouring in, though, so they were eventually able to replace all of these lights with full-spectrum LED grow lights. These are much more expensive, but once you’ve made the initial purchase, they’re much cheaper to run. They also much easier to run and maintain, so the kids were able to run everything themselves. They learned about plant grow cycles and changing the length of daylight artificially. They also learned about watering needs, soil pH and various other technologies necessary when growing plants.

growing food on abandoned lot in LA

Growing food on an abandoned lot. By Jonathan McIntosh – Own work, CC BY 2.5

Every morning before school, these kids go and tend to the garden for a bit. Their school also gives them a free period or two, which is not hard to do given all the time wasted at most public schools. The kids use that free period to head over to the warehouse and spend some more time with their garden. After school, most of them go back and do even more gardening. Basically they use all their free time to garden. They do this voluntarily and are having a great time. Tending to this community garden is keeping them off the streets and keeping them out of danger.

The organizers of this community center are to thank for this wonderful idea. They had it and they set it all up they got it all organized, hired the landscaping expert and they still run it. We thank them so much for this. We also get tons of fresh tomatoes out of it!

On top of these people, we must thank everyone in the community for supporting this idea and for their generous donations. You can see a list of donations on the community center website, but we will just thank them in general here. We don’t want to single anyone out on our site.

So again, thank you so much for your generous donations that have allowed the community to provide these children and their plants with the best indoor LED grow lights available. The kind LED K5 XL 1000 units that are each lighting an individual child’s plot are a true miracle of technology. They have grown some wonderful vegetables and fruits and the children have taken those and have sold them at the local farmers market. They are allowed to keep the profits, which makes this whole endeavor even more exciting to them. They are basically able to run their own little business.

I don’t imagine that many of them will go on to become farmers later in their life, but this isn’t just an experience in farming and gardening. It is also an experience in running a business and that will help them throughout the rest of their lives, whether they stay in their little town or whether they move elsewhere in the US or the world. What a wonderful community centered idea and a wonderful way to make use of an old abandoned warehouse space!