Angelenos Building Community: Celebrating Florence Nishida, LA Green Grounds

Transforming South Los Angeles into a Food Forest

Florence Nishida, LA Green Grounds

Angelenos Building Community is a series of stories from a diverse range of Angelenos and the work they do in support of their community in Los Angeles. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is committed to uplifting the voices of community members who strive to create an equitable, accessible, and inclusive community for all.

Meet Florence Nishida, Master Gardener

Florence Nishida Headshot

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 NHM. It became a prototype for the Museum's Erika J. Glazer Edible Garden, which is a part of the Nature Gardens at NHM.

Erika J. Glazer edible garden
Erika J. Glazer Edible Garden

As a child, Nishida moved to the South Los Angeles neighborhood of NHM 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, also known as a “food desert,” her principal goal as a gardening teacher was to provide opportunities for residents to access better diet, health, and food security.

My long-standing view -and hopefully reflected in the way I treat others- is that we need to stop separating ourselves from other beings. I'd prefer a more holistic view of people, their appearance, religions, cultural practices, etc. As humans (one species), there are a lot of shared qualities, certainly shared aspirations and wishes- a better life for our children, a safer, more healthy world, more understanding, less hate, more peace, less anxiety and fear.

Florence Nishida, reflecting on the escalating series of racist attacks on Asians and Asian Americans

She recruited her Museum gardening students and community members to found LA Green Grounds (LAGG) 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, LAGG promotes access to fresh food, gardening knowledge, and healthy eating habits to the community.

L.A. Green Grounds, Florence Nishida
Photo Credit: LA Green Grounds

In 2016, LAGG started its own teaching garden with monthly workshops on topics like 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. LAGG is not funded by large grants, and is a 100% volunteer organization, relying upon donations.