Jelani Thomas is his own live experiment ~~how to be more self~sufficient in an urban setting. Deep in South Los Angeles, butting up against the 10 Freeway, he is living a radical gardeners dream, bucking the belief that food comes from stores and that our individual impact does not affect the whole. In his small plot of land, on his little slice of planet earth, he is growing everything from crayfish to chickens, from celery to apples, experimenting with how to live a more balanced, conscious life in the ways he can provide for his own needs in our current industrial~corporate~military complex.
His Urban Farming Observatory, as he coins it, is about being an open~minded observer to the earth’s brilliance and natural impulse to grow and live.
I met Jelani at a planning meeting at Green Tree Yoga where the founder, Raja Michelle, was dreaming about how to celebrate Earth Day at her revolutionary yoga and meditation by donation yoga studio in South LA’s underserved community. Jelani will be there for the community showing people how to plant and grow food from seed.
“People think food comes from a cart so I grew some food in a cart. 🙂 ”
“I want to see if this is doable. I want to show people that I am a normal dude, potty trained right here in the city, not some crazy kook. I am focused and getting my systems together. Its like a healing process, my own personal healing. I am testing to see what is possible in an urban setting and then I will teach others what they can do in their setting. That is my ultimate mission. Some parts of your training need to be done alone. Once you grow through it you can come back whole and then share the experience.”
Jelani grew up as a quiet observer, not quite sure he agreed with all the systems in place. He did his own thing and is a very independent thinker.
He converted his garage to his urban cabin. Living here year round, Jelani is bringing his personal system to an even temperature that is comfortable. He sees us as living in these overbuilt boxes, weakening our systems by making everything homogenous. We stay at a similar temperature and get uncomfortable with fluctuations. Jelani is living through the changes presented day to day, season to season without running towards the status quo perceived comfort of modern day heating and cooling systems in overbuilt boxes that we call houses and homes.
His rain catchment system simply catches water off the roof and he keeps is rich, composted soil moist and fertile.
His dogs and chickens hang out. They are trained to get along. And they do. The chicken is eating scraps from the dogs bone.
Growing crayfish and goldfish for food, he experiments with biology, simple technology and deep observation.
He shared his home brew, hibiscus tea, about the most intense, crisp and tart tonic I have ever tasted. It hit my blood and organs like much needed medicine.
His worms are very happy, thriving in the compost created through the breakdown of grass clippings, kitchen scraps, dog poo and even his poo. I would call him a compost superhero. At least my compost superhero.
Jelani is friends with a new role model and hero of mine, Ron Finley. Ron is a guerrilla gardner in South LA. We biked over to his place and checked out his “food bank”~ curb side gardening and harvesting where the community participates in a much needed revolution in this food desert. Ron’s spearheading provides oasis and balm.
See if his Ted Talk brings you to inspired tears.
“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.” Ron Finley, Guerrilla Gardner, South Central
As I take in all the steps and courage and will that beautiful people take to find and offer more balance, I am humbled and grateful. There is a lot of good going on and I think it important to keep focusing on the good, what is working, and how we can change and grow as a collective community and collective consciousness.