In Santa Ana, California, one urban farm is fighting to bring food sovereignty and cooperative economy to a community wrought with health disparities. In 2016, lead farmer Abel Ruiz helped found CRECE Urban Farms, a five-member, cooperatively-run project that is committed to making fresh, local food accessible to communities of color in the area. Abel recalls, “Our project emerged from the vision of elders, residents, and youth in our community who were fed up with the health disparities in which we live in Santa Ana. We mobilized to demand our city leaders take a bold stand against food apartheid and shift towards holistic solutions to health by providing access to green spaces, good food grown with dignity, and recreational areas.” By growing culturally relevant crops, offering sliding scale pricing and work exchanges, and providing knowledge sharing opportunities, CRECE is giving community members a new outlook on the future of food access in Orange County.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CRECE served as a recreational and educational space for community members to gather and forge connections with each other and to the experience of growing fresh, nutrient-rich food. Shortly before the pandemic, CRECE, along with American Farmland Trust (AFT) and CalRecycle, hosted a Community Scale Composting workshop to bring new technical skills to its members. This workshop brought together farmers at CRECE with other local producers, expanding their network and opportunities for future projects. With the pandemic bringing in-person gatherings to a halt, CRECE needed to find new ways to connect with its members and bring its mission to others in the area.
Recently, CRECE was awarded a Brighter Futures Fund grant as part of a collaboration between AFT and Tillamook. Using these funds, the farm is building a website in Spanish and English, with a member portal, to drive engagement and expand into new markets. “We remain committed to building solidarity and capacity within our communities to determine how we grow our food, who grows it, and the way it is grown,” explained Abel. Despite the hardships experienced due to COVID-19, CRECE continues to be a valuable resource for this community in Santa Ana.
AFT’s Brighter Future Fund grant program provides direct financial support to farmers across the country to strengthen farm resilience, enhance farm viability, and improve access to land. The Brighter Future Fund is just one of AFT’s many regional and national programs, that all share the goal of advancing AFT’s mission of protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land.