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Ten years ago, the 2400 block of Jefferson Street was one of the deadliest in East Baltimore. Today, thanks to enormous efforts from neighbors, community groups, and local nonprofits, this block has become a positive model of grassroots urban renewal. Street and violent crimes have stabilized, drug markets have either shut down or moved elsewhere, and residents have taken back their block and a sense of community with it. But for these neighbors, improving the safety of their community isn’t enough, so the 2400 block of Jefferson Street is evolving again.

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How to Transform a Vacant Lot into a Community Garden

If you look around your neighborhood, you might see some land—a corner of your local park, or a school’s sunny side yard, for example—that could...

If you look around your neighborhood, you might see some land—a corner of your local park, or a school’s sunny side yard, for example—that could potentially be transformed into a place to produce food. Whether it’s a vacant field or schoolyard, or the rooftop of a public building, how can you work to turn that space into a community asset?

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It started as an empty lot on 41st and Alameda. It became, with care and patience and the hard labor of hundreds of families, 14 acres of productive farmland, a source of fresh food and pride for an underserved community. A decade later, in 2003, the City of Los Angeles decided to sell that land in South Central, which had been transformed from urban wasteland to arguably the largest community garden in the country. And then there was shock, anger, organization, fundraising, negotiation, rejection, a zucchini in a tailpipe, and finally, the bulldozers roared.

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