Nestled just beside the 5 freeway in Atwater Village is the most charming little urban garden farm which is the headquarters of Taking The Reins, a non-profit that works with underserved teenage girls. I love how Los Angeles is full of surprises that break the stereotypes if you just take your designer sunglasses off and have a look around. This garden is one of those surprises.
Although my visit to Taking the Reins occurred in the morning, while the girls are not there, I could still feel the therapeutic power of how beneficial this environment is. How many urban dwellers get to hold a chicken, and then relate it back as a food source? To make this intrinsic connection is the pathway to become a thoughtful eater or even become an activist for change in the practices of our country’s industrial agriculture.
This is a silkie chicken. Her coat was as soft as a baby kitty, and I could have held her all day.
Here is Laila, who tends our garden at Heirloom LA and also works part time at this farm. She showed me how to put the silkies back down (very gently) so they don’t get spooked. They were such fragile little fur balls who were being trained to enjoy affection so that the girls could all have the experience of cuddling with them.
Warm eggs! This happening confirmed to me that I want a chicken coop at our house. Not only is their doo doo used as fertilizer in the garden, but they eat all the snails and critters that impair your garden. Nature, as it is originally intended, is so impressively efficient.
Like all healthy compost, this pile smelled as subtle as herbs despite being made of waste that would otherwise clog up a landfill. It takes about a year to decompose and become nutrient rich black gold fertilizer, and since it is out in the open like you see, the girls get to witness the process of the breakdown. Having access to a compost pile makes you really consider all of your trash, and try to minimize it. What a great lesson, right?
Behind this squash vine is a compost toilet which is, yes, I understand, a hard sell to most of our modern populace. Contrary to what you may envision, it’s not offensive when you consider it’s efficiency. You have to ask yourself what we used before there was plumbing. At any rate, it’s an interesting concept for these girls to explore as this farm works to maintain a zero waste report card.
Taking the Reins also has a horse stable that the girls maintain. Although I was instructed not to touch the horses, they were all very curious with me and the closer I got to them, the more they would try to nuzzle. There’s something so majestic about horses. They have a very soulful quality about them so I can only imagine how therapeutic it would be to work to build a relationship with them and train them, which is what the girls do.
I fell hard for this guy. Frankly, I nearly cat-napped him. He literally ran up to me upon my entrance and followed me around until I left. He even jumped on top of me when I bent over and let me carry him around on my shoulder. I was in love. This whole little property was a slice of heaven and makes me feel so happy that it is being utilized to benefit at risk young women. This was my first introduction, but I look forward to learning and sharing more of this special program.