ALMA's Philosophy of Growth
This end of year letter intends to share stories of growth and lessons learned through the alchemy of people, plants, and places over nearly 10 years. Alma’s work facilitates ways to heal people, plants and places in order to realize their potential and aspire to be the fullest versions of themselves.
This letter marks the passage of 2022 filled with accomplishments and lessons that will help ALMA transition in the years ahead. In this letter we hope to express our modus operandi of how and why ALMA fulfills its mission to reclaim lives, repurpose land and reimagine community.
Woven into this are stories told by ALMA’s people, lessons made manifest and shared by plants, and the potential for transforming places, in looking ahead to ALMA’s next chapter. It is our philosophy that people are encouraged to do and be their best when in relationship and at ALMA we inspire our community through a shared dynamic belief in reciprocity.
ALMA’s philosophy continues to honor the principle of paradox: Out of barren places can come forth lush places for growing. Out of lives beset by fear and a complicated past can come forth courageous lives taking the risk to give back. Out of the loss of loved ones comes forth lessons of love.
We hope that the time you take to read this letter lifts you up. We hope that 2023 will be a year where your dreams continue to manifest. We hope that YOU become a real part of ALMA's journey into the future.
As we pave the way for the next ten years at ALMA, we invite you to become part of our journey for the long-haul. How can we grow together while honoring land and relationships? ALMA invites you to visit our urban farms.
In the beginning, we were driven by a deep desire to heal relationships harmed by the effects of incarceration, food insecurity, and re-entry. One of our genesis stories involved a mother recently released from incarceration who had not been present for her daughter during crucial developmental teen years. One way we discovered how their relationship can strengthen is by distributing food so families can prepare and share meals together.
Today, ALMA recognizes that when the dignity of every life is upheld, healing happens. When our relationships with each other are based in care, the plants we grow and the places we cultivate are honored and celebrated.
Urban Farm Lesson: When we want our plants to be productive, we train people to recognize what parts on the plant may be dead, diseased or dying and often times these parts must be removed. This method of plant care speaks figuratively to the challenges we face to grow mutually and with respect for our interconnectivity.
We have learned at ALMA that part of our growth – personal and organizational – is to remove our inclination to remain in a place of comfort and rather apply ourselves to the necessary challenges that create new ways of thinking and acting. What ALMA does in our urban farms could be called relational farming; Cultivating tenderness no matter how hard the heart.
In the beginning, we grew plants with a one-sided approach that aimed for productivity and asserted a sort of dominance over the plants, acting as sole caretakers of the plants. We had not yet realized how much the plants had already become our caretakers and teachers.
Today, we recognize that we are in reciprocal relationship with plants. Transforming from small seeds to nourishment, the plants teach us an invaluable lesson that great things start small. However small some things may appear to be, the impact can still be amazingly large.
Urban Farm Lesson: The plants we grow, from Cilantro to Collards to Carrots and much more, have taught us that at different stages of development, plants require a different level of care and interaction. Young plants likely require more tender attention to achieve their own strength and maturity.
At ALMA we ask: How can we nourish ourselves and our organization into maturity by providing ourselves the right developmentally appropriate care? Care at ALMA reflects beauty and offers a kind of providence––revelation in the here and now.
In the beginning, we would hurriedly accept any offer of any backyard space without having fully developed our specifications. In the middle we came to the realization that the desire for impact helped to shape our specifications for urban farm space. We found that our work had the most impact when we asked ourselves: Where is there disproportionately more parolees? Where is there lack of access? The questions we posed may appear unwise from a business perspective, but make the most sense in terms of impact.
Today, ALMA has planted farms in new places where we have felt invited into relationship. ALMA now grows food in East Los Angeles, Compton, San Pedro and Riverside. Combined we farm over 3 acres of urban land and in 2022 we have accomplished growing 125K lbs of food distributed at our bi-weekly Farm Stand. ALMA’s urban farms are much more than spaces to grow food. ALMA’s urban farms are places to grow community.
Urban Farm Lesson: Growth can happen in any place where there is synergy and interdependence between plants and people.
2022 is marked by the passage of our ancestors. Their passage into the realm of eternity also means the passing on of wisdom that continues to guide our work. My mother, Simplicia Deogracias Garcia, died October 29, 2022. Simplicia passed away physically on this date and passes on an energy that remains eternal – an energy that sparked my early interest in playing in the dirt, interacting with plants, and attending to people.
My mom, like many of our ancestors, gifted us with lessons of love. Upon my mom’s shoulders, I stand today with more personal news, namely, Erika and I are expecting our first child this December 2022. I noticed the proximity of life, death and resurrection on the day I was helping my dad sort through my mom’s personal belongings. My dad called me to make sure that we kept my mom’s wheelchair, just as I had returned home with the purchase of a baby stroller. I experienced the proximity of the past and the future and how the choices we make now have eternal impact.
From the beginning, urban farming was always more than addressing today’s crises of food insecurity, lack of green spaces, or prisoner re-entry. Farming, rural or urban, always gently holds together the reality between the past and the present insofar as it places our ancestors at the forefront of memory, those people whose shoulders we stand on in deep-rooted gratitude.
all my best,
Rich D. Garcia
Co-Founder & Executive Director
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