Almanac Update: We raised $500!

Hi! A quick check in during a summer of reunions, record heat/wildfires, dining outdoors, and watering my dry af compost:

  • WE RAISED $500 for Community Cookouts and Shift Our Ways Collective with the almanac pre-sale!!! Thank you so much to everyone who participated. More updates to come on how your donation is being used to fight for food justice in LA.
  • WE HAVE SOME LEFTOVERS SO WE’RE HAVING A SALE! If you’d like a copy of the almanac, you can order one now for $15 (includes shipping). Order here: https://forms.gle/uEiCskiNM5zm3bRY6
  • MY COMPOST IS TOO DRY: I’m now about 4 months in to my new compost pile, and I’m turning it every week to minimize fruit flies and aerate the compost, but also watering it 1-2 times a week because it is H-O-T out here in LA County. My little backyard garden desperately needs some better soil, so fingers crossed I can use this compost by the end of the year…..

That’s all for now….stay tuned for more updates about the almanac fundraiser impact, my withering garden, and just general good vibes =) Bye for now!

The 2021 Urban Farmers’ Almanac is HERE!

** MAY UPDATE: The print edition is now available for pre-order here until May 31: https://forms.gle/rNXQ2ibSqdBTr4HE6

First, I want to thank all my friends and colleagues who have already read the book and reached out to offer support! Sharing this project with the world has been overwhelming, exciting, and very fun. This is a community effort that was only made possible thanks to many talented, intelligent, passionate volunteers. Many folks have asked me if there are plans to print this book – there will be an exciting announcement regarding print sales on EARTH DAY, which is this Thursday, April 22! The announcement will be made on Instagram, so stay tuned if you want to make sure you get a print copy**.

I’m going back into my internet bunker for the rest of the week to promote the digital almanac release, but just wanted to check in and express my gratitude for everyone who has taken an interest in growing and living better in Los Angeles. I hope you enjoy the book and learn something new! The digital almanac is under the My Projects tab on the homepage, or just download it from here:

PRINT EDITION PRE-ORDER LINK HERE: https://forms.gle/rNXQ2ibSqdBTr4HE6

Why I’m writing an almanac

Photo taken at The Ecology Center.

Traditionally, a farmer’s almanac contained data and resources for agricultural purposes. The book contained weather pattern predictions, tips on what to grow when, as well as timely information about improvements in agricultural technology. Growing up, I would run to the Scholastic book fair in my elementary school’s library to order the books I had circled in the catalog they sent to students. One of the books I looked forward to the most was the annual Time For Kids almanac, which covered everything from dinosaurs, current events, and future gadgets. (I remember in the 2004 edition, there was a feature on the possibility of electric or hydrogen powered cars. It was an innocent time.)

I decided to create the digital farmer’s almanac because I want to highlight all the good work our communities are already doing to combat climate change and to improve our urban lifestyle. Instead of offering my opinion on issues, I want to put a spotlight on as many grassroots causes and existing community gardens and urban farms as possible because I truly believe these efforts are what make LA my favorite place in the world.

Despite our systemic problems, no one can dispute that immigrants, people of color, strong women, and innovative creators make up the backbone of LA. So I figured, why work harder when we can work smarter?

I’m delighted to announce the 2021 Urban Farmers Almanac for Angelenos will be released online in March. The almanac is completely free, downloadable as a PDF, or will be available on this website. Later in the year, I will be announcing an exciting collaboration project with a local sustainable business related to the almanac. Pre-order details for this project will be announced after the digital almanac release.

This January, I make no resolutions or promises (or plans haha) for myself- instead, I am committed to grow and build on the foundations I built in 2020, and hope to contribute to the greater path of progress we are all walking on together. No matter where you’re reading this from, I wish you health and joy in 2021. And thank you in advance for supporting this Angeleno’s humble project!

Say my name

A lot of my friends and colleagues don’t know that I have two names. Everyone knows me as Jamie, because that is my legal first name given to me by my father. But my Korean name is Heesoo, written in Chinese characters as “extraordinary woman”, and was given to me by my grandfather, who lived through the Korean War and Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century.

I don’t introduce myself as Heesoo to anyone unless they are from Korea or my family elders. After I began my career, however, I started to wish my legal name was Heesoo because no one seems to be able to spell Jamie correctly- sometimes, people pronounce it incorrectly as well. As for my last name, Hwang, I’ve heard it mis-pronounced in every way possible.

Wang – wong – hang -wang -I’m-Not-Even-Going-To-Try*

Both of my names are androgynous, and while working remotely I began to really notice how people assume I am a male because of my first name and because there is an assumption that political staffers are males.

My names represent the duality that has followed me my entire life. It’s something that sets immigrant families apart from multi-generational American families who have fully assimilated. Having two names signals someone has had to give up one home to find a new one. One night after dinner, my parents talked about how American immigrants all suffer an unspoken trauma from assimilation and isolation. They talked about how hard it is to live in a foreign place without any friends or speaking the language. Then they asked me if I ever struggled to live in America because of my Asian background.

I was surprised and initially frustrated- the question brought forth a rush of childhood experiences of being the only Asian student in classrooms, being told to eat my smelly lunches alone, and spending my early adult years patiently enduring being the token Asian person in organizations, work spaces, and social situations.

And then I was embarrassed and humbled as I realized that I do not fully understand my parents’ trauma because I have been so burdened by my own experiences. Then I felt waves of gratitude and pride because this conversation means our family has made it to a place where we can talk about, recognize, and share our narratives.

Does it make it easier to understand our parents if we share a common tongue? Or do we set up barriers, like re-naming ourselves so we appear more American, to make it easier for others to accept us, and end up losing what we had in common at all?

*Hwang is typically pronounced “hw-ahng” and rhymes with song. This is a common Chinese last name as well, but should not be confused with Wong or Song. Also, if you don’t know how to pronounce someone’s name, just ask! Please don’t tell us you won’t bother trying. It signals you don’t want to bother trying to know who we are.

field trips #002

I first stumbled upon Transplant LA on Instagram earlier this year, and since then had the opportunity to interview Grace Olguin, who is a local gardener who launched a contactless plant delivery service in the LA area. Grace and I talked about how she came up with the idea for Transplant LA, plant fashion, and aloe vera. While this isn’t a traditional field trip, I’m excited to share Transplant LA with y’all- please support a local business this holiday season! And dress up your indoor plant friends 🙂

Name of Org/IG – Transplant LA ; IG @transplant.l.a

Full Name: Grace Olguin

What inspired Transplant LA? When did you start gardening and sharing with others?

Grace: I was inspired to garden at a really young age. I remember growing up in Mexico with family members who always had lots of plants and grew edible gardens. My grandmother nurtured my curiosity and would always compliment my hands, which was one of the most empowering compliments I received as a child. My mother has always said I have my grandmother’s green thumb, as if my thriving plants are loving gifts from my grandmother— gifts that are innate, inherent, and blessed. 

I have been sharing my love for plants for almost a decade now. In 2011, I started to make succulent terrariums in glass bowls. Because I couldn’t ship them, I would sell them at outdoor markets, as well as offer local pick up/delivery. “Transplant LA” is essentially a continuation of that, many years later. I named it “Transplant LA” because several of the plants are acquired through cuttings and transplants from my aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, and I also have grown my plant collection through transplanting my own cuttings, then swapping plants with my neighbors and friends! 

What is the short term and long-term goal for Transplant LA?

Grace: A goal that Transplant LA successfully achieved earlier this year was to launch the “$25 Plant Box” contactless plant delivery service. This was my way of bringing joy to people’s spaces during quarantine, which forced us all to spend a lot more time in one space. The Plant Box includes 3 easy-to-care-for plants in four-inch pots, plant-care instructions, and a postcard (to send a loving note to your socially distanced friend, and to support the USPS).

It seems a lot more people gained interest this year in learning how to care for and grow plants, which is wonderful! At the same time, we couldn’t exactly leave our homes to shop for plants. Shopping online for plants became a go-to for some, but that can get expensive due to expedited shipping fees. My solution to this problem was to help people source plants locally, without needing to leave their homes. I limited this service to two Saturdays per month and serviced up to 10 clients monthly. I sourced plants the morning of and made deliveries in the afternoon. I provided free delivery within a 15-mile radius of Downtown Los Angeles. Every purchase directly supported vendors from the Downtown Los Angeles Flower District.  

My long-term goal for “Transplant LA” is to continue using it as a fun and resourceful platform where I can continue to share my plant care routine and knowledge, as well as bring awareness to learning resources such as the free gardening webinars for Los Angeles County residents via smartgardening.com. This free resource, provided by Los Angeles County Public Works, is how I learned to transform my household’s organic waste into compost! I hope that someday in the near future, Los Angeles County can provide a compost ordinance/service like San Francisco. Instead of creating more trash that goes into landfills and oceans, each household can learn how to compost and create nutrient-rich soil for local farmers.

Are there any big projects/events/giveaways coming up? 

Grace: I have a small business called @bygracreates – a lot of my time and energy will go into rebranding and scaling this business in the new year. Earlier this year, I launched my “Plant Romper” collection. The “Plant Romper” is a handmade fabric planter which can be used to dress up any of your pots. I will be working on making and releasing a new batch of these planters just in time for Valentine’s Day ❤ 

Four Inch Indoor Plant Fabric Pot / Plant Basket image 0

As for the “Plant Box,” it is currently on hiatus, but I hope to continue the service soon. For now, I offer a local pick-up option in Long Beach for individual plants. I am currently helping my wonderful stepmom sell her transplanted cuttings of aloe vera plants. She has 30 of them! They all grew from two aloe vera plants that her grandmother gifted her many years ago. They are very loved, and available for local pick up in Long Beach and Pomona.

Imposter Syndrome

In my third meeting of the day, I find myself seated around department representatives, project leads, and political aides, but the conversation at hand sounds far away in my head. Once again, I look around and see that I’m the only one who looks like me at the table. I feel like I don’t belong.

Is this normal?

I wanted to talk about imposter syndrome for a long time because the topic comes up in almost every conversation I have with talented, brilliant, young women of color. We’ll be sharing office anecdotes, and then somehow we are admitting that there are many moments when we pause and feel like we don’t deserve to be there, or that we are not supposed to be there.

I hesitated to write about this because 1. I was worried someone at work would read this and perceive that I am insecure/lacking confidence at my job and 2. I never sought medical evaluation for a real diagnosis, and I do not want to make light of those who experience true mental health problems because of imposter syndrome. And then the past few weeks, we all saw the world turn upside down. Now I realize that it is time for my colleagues to understand what I have been going through, and that the co-workers who matter most will be the ones who reach out and offer support. The ones who do not simply do not matter. And I think, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we all feel lost at our jobs from time to time. Never has a job turned out to fit the job description I applied for. This is a feeling that is universally felt by BIPOC, Women of Color, and Millennials at large who are beginning their professional careers. I’m going to focus on my experience with IS, when I first noticed it, and what I’m doing about it. So if you want to know more about what it’s like for a Millennial Asian American female to work in America, read on. If you couldn’t care less, you’re in for a pretty boring read.

The room where it happens
I am so proud to represent my Korean heritage on staff, but it can be extremely challenging being Korean-American at work sometimes. I am 5’2 and without makeup I look like I am a high school student. I have four years of public service experience and just finished my Master’s degree in Urban Planning while working full-time. Yet I find myself spending time every morning putting together outfits that will make me look older, and shoving my feet into painful heels so I look taller. And I know this fear of being looked down on is not just in my head. My fear was validated when, during the first year at my job, men refused to shake my hand, asked for hugs, kissed me on the cheek without my consent, and asked me to take notes and make photocopies during large conference meetings.

I have been humiliated time and time again. And then there’s my age. In my field of work, most meetings are filled with middle-aged males who are mid/late-career professionals. For two years, I had to practice finding the right moment to speak up and comment or ask questions. There were some meetings where I could not even find a chance to say one word. In grad school, I was the only Korean-American female in my class, and one of about 5 Korean students in the public policy school.

I love what I do- And I’m good at it

So why did I put up with it? Why didn’t I go to my supervisor? I was afraid of speaking up because I did not want to appear as whiney, bitchy, or lazy. As a Korean-American, I watched my parents work 6 days a week non-stop to put food on the table. I was raised to be thankful for being employed, and that my duty is to work as hard as I can. But no matter how hard I work, even to this day, I come across frustrating moments where I know the person across the table from me is not taking me seriously. All these moments combined made me realize one day that I felt like a fake. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be in grad school, and that I was faking my way through my job somehow. While I was confused about whether or not I was “qualified” for my job, I was only sure of one thing- that I love what I do, and that nothing brings me greater joy than solving problems and providing public services to constituents.

The only thing that makes me feel better about my imposter syndrome is my Community of Badass Women. Every woman in my life is killing it in her field. They are teachers, investment bankers, accountants, consultants, planners, engineers, and small business owners. When they talk about their dreams, their eyes light up and they talk quickly and passionately. And they dream BIG- I can’t wait to see what they do next because it is only a matter of time until their dreams come true. And yet, every one of these women tell me they also feel what I feel- that they haven’t earned what they have achieved and that maybe they are not supposed to be solving poverty/public education/climate change/etc. This, of course, drives me insane. And then I drive THEM insane by revealing, that I, too, feel like an imposter. Despite the fact that I have achieved so much and I love what I do.

So look. If you’re not a POC, you probably do not know how it feels to be the only person in the conference room who looks like you. It is scary, intimidating, and something that I hope happens less frequently. If you are an ally, I hope you take the time to reach out and support your colleagues who may be struggling to break through the glass/bamboo ceiling. If you are like me, and you ARE the person in the room- I am so proud of us for being in the room where decisions are made. Keep going! And if it’s any consolation, just know that I’m right there with you, carefully curling my hair so it looks more “mature” and saving my sparkly lip gloss for weekends because I want to be “taken seriously” Monday-Friday. So if it helps you, I want to talk about this. It’s not a pretty topic, but I think it is important to embrace and overcome imposter syndrome. Because one day soon, we’re not going to be the only ones in the room who look like us. And when that day comes, our seat at the table will be waiting for us, and we need to continue to making more seats for BIPOC, women, and every other person who has felt like a fake walking into a board room.

That’s all for now. The work continues- please check out these resources if you want to learn more: https://blacklivesmatter.com/resources/

….And she’s back!

It’s been pretty quiet on this blog since the beginning of the year- I was looking forward to getting back to interviewing planners and sharing ideas about urban farming after I finished working on a local political campaign in March. And then Covid-19 happened.

I hope all of you are staying safe and doing what you can to take care of yourselves while focusing on loved ones. We are all going on a different version of this strange journey, and I think it’s important to honor everyone’s individual experiences.

All this to say….I am now settled into a WFH routine, and just submitted my comprehensive exam, which completes my Master’s Program! More on this later- I decided to write a proposal for a food hall that sells local urban farm produce in Watts.

Here’s what you can look forward to from shegrowscities:
– I started a Covid Garden! I am staying with my family during the pandemic, and we have a limited backyard, but I’m so excited to show you what we’ve got going on.
– NEW PLANNER PROFILE: SUSTAIN OUR WORLD EDITION is coming next week! A badass team of women came together to grow a community garden in SF valley in response to Covid-19 and also because urban farming is sustainable, profitable, and equitable. More on this in the interview next week!

Yours in Solidarity,

Jamie

Green Summer Recap

Hi! I took a break from shegrowscities so I could focus on summer school, travel, and some good ol’ fashioned self care in the form of baking, yoga, and spending time with friends. Grad school is back in session, so I wanted to check in to share what I learned about urban farming, local food systems, and how communities can partner with them…..

gorgeous leafy greens!!!!


Community gardens are economic investments
On a quick weekend trip in San Diego, I accidentally stumbled upon an urban garden next to a church in North Park. The garden is grown and maintained by the International Rescue Committee as a local program that invests in local refugee gardeners by training them in marketable skills and providing fresh fruits and veggies for the area! I loved this concept particularly because it is a win-win-win for the environment, neighborhood, and refugees who need support in assimilating.

from cityfarmer.info


CSAs are subscription boxes for local farm produce
CSAs are a great way to support local farms by cutting out the middleman. Simply find your local delivery/pick up location and you can pick up a box of fresh fruits and veggies on a weekly or monthly basis. Here’s how I found mine.

goodbye grass, hello seasonal fruits and veggies…..


Partnerships are key for sustainable urban farming
Lastly, I am excited to share that I spent the summer also working closely with my local church in La Mirada to launch a pilot communal garden program through the on-site preschool! LM used to have a community garden space, but it has been gone since 2016. It took some research to figure out if this would require a conditional use permit/if we need anything from the county assessor, but I am excited to say the school will soon be experimenting with herbs, bee friendly flowers, and hydroponic systems! I will share more updates about this project hopefully soon…..

I am so excited to kick off my LAST YEAR OF GRADUATE SCHOOL! It will be challenging balancing work and academics again, but learning with my amazing cohort and being constantly inspired by the friends and faculty members I have met through the program keep me going. This year, I hope to learn more about how transportation affects access to nutritious foods, how planning tools can incentivize urban farming, and how planners of all backgrounds can come together to combat climate change through realistic, sustainable planning!
I want to sign off with this article my friend Kavina wrote for Medium about how to get started with your own garden no matter where you live– stay tuned for more content from her soon….

Hi there!

Thanks for checking out She Grows Cities. I created this website to connect with other urban planners who are passionate about sustainability, building stronger communities, and increasing diversity in the planning profession. I’m excited to connect with you!