Florence Nishida, botanist, mycologist and life-long gardener, joined the Master Gardeners of Los Angeles County in 2008 after retiring from careers in teaching (English- LAUSD), editorial research at Time Inc., and research in mycology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM).
In 2010, as one of the initial Master Gardeners tasked with setting up gardening classes in Los Angeles, Nishida was daunted at the lack of suitable sites: schools and churches preferred asphalted grounds for parking. Thus, she proposed creating a teaching garden to the museum. It became a prototype for the Erika J. Glazer edible garden.
As a child, Nishida moved to the south Los Angeles neighborhood of the Natural History Museum following release from a WWII Japanese/Japanese-American internment camp. Aware that South Los Angeles suffers from high rates of diet-related disease, exacerbated by the lack of healthy food resources, i.e. aka a “food desert,” her principal goals as a gardening teacher was to provide opportunities for residents to access better diet, health, and food security.
She recruited her museum students and community members to found LA Green Grounds in 2010, with the mission of teaching residents how to grow their own food (and share with neighbors) in easily visible front yard gardens. Bringing together neighbors and volunteers from greater Los Angeles, LA Green Grounds promotes access to fresh food, gardening knowledge and healthy eating habits to the community.
In 2016, LA Green Grounds started its own teaching garden with monthly workshops, e.g., container gardening, growing and using herbs, pruning, children’s workshops and hand-on learning/volunteer gardening opportunities. LAGG’s Teaching Garden is unique in several ways: a variety of uncommon or ‘ethnic’ vegetables and herbs expose people to new foods; native plants provide habitat for wildlife in a natural setting, a succulent and native plants border present attractive drought-tolerant landscaping, and the open, unfenced green space is enjoyed by neighbors, visitors, and gardening students as a sanctuary. LA Green Grounds is unfunded by large grants, and is a 100% volunteer organization, relying upon donations.