Miss Kale: One Girl’s Bumpy Journey to Becoming an Urban Farmer


| 1/14/2013 12:32:00 PM


Tags: urban farming, rooftop gardening, community garden, Los Angeles, L.A., California, Kathleen Gasperini,

Living in a brick loft in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, two blocks over from Skid Row, the largest homeless shelter in the country, may not seem the ideal place to start one’s journey toward becoming an urban farmer, but dreams can begin anywhere.

The idea started when my 97-year-old grandmother, who comes from the seasonal foothills of the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York, had sent me a copy of Capper’s magazine. It was completely different than what I usually had to read for work—fashion, action sports, and lifestyle magazines—and I was intrigued. After browsing through her Capper’s which was filled with her colorful commentary on Post-its, I started to wonder about the possibility of raising a chicken on the fire escape stoop outside my window. After all, I did have a couple of geraniums out there and a row of herbs.

lemons, kale and strawberries
Lemons, kale and a Valentine's Day strawberry! Photo By Kathleen Gasperini.

However, it was apparent that a chicken on a fire escape stoop wouldn’t be “free range,” and anyways, I had two cats—but my second idea, which was still a long-shot, became embedded in my bones. Maybe, I thought, I could grow, like, kale or something, and become an “urban farmer.”

Fast forward three years and three moves into three different lofts, all within the same five-block radius, and I found myself in a penthouse with a small roof patio. Here, I thought, I could grow my roof garden and be a real urban farmer. Maybe even have three tomato plants and kale.

By this time, rooftop gardens were sprouting up on top of some of the refurbished old buildings in the area, cared for by local organic restaurants, or citizens dedicated to greening LA’s rooftops. After deciding that chickens on the fire escape landing wouldn’t work and trying to grow a tomato plant indoors (which grew and grew but never produced), I too, had joined forces with other rooftop garden neighbors and helped with one such plot where we grew tomatoes and flowers and even had a huge compost tumbler on the roof.




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