Jill Volat had a rough 2015. Newly divorced and living in a small apartment without a patch of ground to call her own, the Los Angeles landscape designer says she felt “like a cobbler who has no shoes.” Until, that is, Volat found herself contemplating the complex’s drought-choked front lawn. After getting permission from the landlord, she turned the 1,000-square-foot plot into a lush potager that produces vegetables, herbs, edible flowers – and something else, too. “It brought neighbors together,” says the 42-year-old. “We’d never interacted with each other, beyond maybe a nod. All of a sudden, the garden made us a community.”
“We’d never interacted with each other. All of a sudden, the garden made us a community.”
Volat, who chronicled the transformation on social media, quickly discovered she was far from the only land-starved Angeleno eager to grow food. So that fall, she founded a nonprofit called The Edible Apartment, which has since established organic “mini farms” at seven other multi-dwelling buildings in the city, with the harvests being distributed among the residents. “Someone on 1,000 acres might laugh at my calling these farms,” admits Volat, “but a lot of urban people who wish to become farmers feel shut out of that possibility. I’m empowering them.” – L.P.