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In 2003, Erika Cuellar co-founded Alma Backyard Farms, a nonprofit in

Compton with the mission of reclaiming lives, repurposing land into reimagined communities and helping the formerly incarcerated who are re-entering the community. The vehicle that Alma Backyard Farms uses to help others, provide food, training, and employment is urban agriculture.

Alma Backyard Farm is only ¾ of an acre, and yet it’s a mighty small plot intensive farm. They yield a lot of produce. As Erica looks out on to the farm she sees tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, cucumbers, peas, eggplant, chayote, lettuce, pumpkins and squash growing. Everything is organic. Rather than using pesticides, they combine plants that support each other. Companion growing builds up plants and soil. For example, onions help any greens, basil works well with tomatoes, and oregano and other herbs provide aromatics that attract good bugs that repel against the cabbage worm and other insects that can destroy plants.

Growing and distributing high quality food is just part of their mission. “The need has always been there even before the pandemic. With parolees, there comes a high rate of food insecurity,” said Erika. “We’re providing a solution by offering access to affordable food and proving jobs and job training to those who need it. “

Pre-pandemic, Alma Backyard Farms had a farm stand on site that also served as a place to provide jobs. They offer training and paid employment. “We still have the same mission that we’ve always had, yet now we are distributing foods every two weeks with a curbside pick-up. We call it “Delivering Bags of Hope.”

The bags are providing hope to families in a time of uncertainty. Families have said that the food, and especially the soup from Bracken’s Kitchen is providing comfort. “A warm meal does something to the body and soul that a cold meal cannot provide,” said Erika. “The soup is made from good ingredients locally. It doesn’t come out of a can. Everyone looks forward to enjoying the soup when they get home.”

“A mother said that the grocery kit is bringing her children together. When they pick up the groceries it’s a Sunday activity, a fun outing, and they look forward to planning meals together.”

Each bag is filled with high quality ingredients, and fresh produce from the farm and some of the best ingredients from partners tha

t include Rossoblu, Toss It Up Salad Bar, Hank and Bean, Yetunde Price Resource Center, Cast Your Bread Los Angeles, Donat Eppe, Artist 4 Revolution, and Food Forward.

They’re delivering 250 grocery bags for 250 families; it’s a first come, first-serve basis.

“We know that we’re proving dignity to people lives with beauty. We work hard to make our space beautiful and serve those in a beautiful manner. We’re so grateful for all of the support.”



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