LA Green Grounds Co-Founder 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, community members, and USC students from the fall 2010 Grow LA Victory Garden class to join her in starting the non-profit she envisioned. This became LA Green Grounds whose mission was to teach south Los Angeles residents how to grow their own food in easily visible front yard gardens, with the intent that homeowners would mutually share their bounty; thus ending the "food desert" in the neighborhood. 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.
Co-founder Vanessa Vobis was a TA at Nishida's first Grow LA Victory Garden class held at the Natural History Museum. Among other roles, Vobis successfully recruited participants for LAGG events, e.g., Nature Fest and Sustainable Sundays. Initial meetings were held at Vobis' home, located near the USC campus.
Co-founder Ron Finley was a local resident and activist who was keenly interested in gardening and attended the first year's gardening fall class. Known for his outspoken and gregarious nature, many became aware of LA Green Grounds through Finley's TED Talk about the parkway garden controversy. This talk has been viewed over four millions times. Finley has since moved on to his own initiatives and founded Ron Finley Projects.
In 2016, LA Green Grounds started its own teaching garden in Los Angeles with monthly workshops, e.g., container gardening, growing and using herbs, pruning, children’s workshops and hand-on learning-while-volunteering 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.
Board of Directors
In 2021, LA Green Grounds filed for and was accepted as its own standalone 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. The Board of Directors is comprised of the following:
- Florence Nishida Hendler - Executive Director
- Mary MacVean - Secretary
- Grace Yamamura - Treasurer
- Catherine Fuller - Director
Messages to LA Green Grounds can be sent to [email protected].
LA Green Grounds is unfunded by large grants, and is a 100% volunteer organization, relying upon donations to fulfill our mission. We invite you to donate to support our ending food deserts. Tax ID #86-2413933.