We had the good fortune of connecting with Cerca Cultivation and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cerca, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
“Cerca” is a Spanish adjective for close or near. Our main philosophy is to bring farms, and other places where food is grown, closer to where people live, work and eat. We believe that the healthiest path forward for people and our planet is local, sustainable, and ethical farming. We want to close the gaps and create a system that feeds back into itself as it grows, creating benefits for all involved! We aim to minimize the distance between where food is grown and where it is eaten. Food travels on average about 1,500 miles to get from the farm to your plate. This results in large quantities of fossil fuel usage, CO2 and waterway pollution, and produce being picked unripe weeks before it is sold and eaten. When you grow your own food at home, at work, at school, or in your community, you are reducing the food miles that your food travels to get to your plate. Our current system is linear: farmers produce food, consumers use some of that food, and the rest gets thrown out. There’s a better way to do it. We are helping create a circular food economy. We compost our food and garden waste, keeping it out of landfills and creating healthy, nutrient-rich soil to be used for growing more food. Additionally, we donate any extra seedlings from our operations to local charities, nonprofits and underserved communities.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
At Cerca, we build and maintain on-site, living food systems that are providing people a chance to connect with the food cycle while making use of spaces that would normally be unable to produce food due to paving or other conditions. We do this through hydroponic and raised bed systems that provide year-round access to herbs, vegetable and leafy greens that can be picked at the peak of ripeness and just before use; eliminating waste and boosting nutrition. These systems are resource efficient and durable so they will continue to save space, water, electricity and lessen contributions to the waste stream for years to come. We also train those interested at any of our sites in best practices in urban agriculture and to imagine new ways to grow and hopefully to go forward with the confidence to take agency over their own plate.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As lifetime residents of LA, we can sometimes become accustomed to the grand cityscape, the world class food, museums and entertainment and the natural beauty from the bluffs of Malibu to the hills and forests that surround our city. Some say it would take you months to truly see all of LA but we think it would take years; there are still places we hope to visit even after all this time. So, for an abbreviated visit, we think we could show you what LA has to offer in four busy days. A week in the city is one of diversity, fusion… and driving, but it all begins with the first day which would be the most packed. It would have to begin in the South Bay with a breakfast burrito to go from one of the hundreds of taquerias, food trucks and craft kitchens in LA like “The Chori-Man” in San Pedro. Eating on the benches near the imposing pagoda that houses the Korean Friendship bell and taking a stroll around the historic sights and windy bluffs around Point Fermin park. After a short drive down the 47 and across the new Gerald Desmond bridge, taking in our incredible port complex and making our way into Long Beach, we would settle in on “Retro Row” near 4th Street and Cherry Ave for a celebration of SoCal’s large Vietnamese population with a fresh bun (noodle salad) or bahn mi sandwich at “Number Nine”. If things are too crowded we might head up to Anaheim Street to experience the amazing architecture and Lemongrass chicken at “Monorom Cambodian” in “Little Cambodia”, one of Long Beach’s core neighborhoods, and the largest Cambodian community outside of Southeast Asia. After that we would take a drive up the 710 to visit the striking Watts Towers Arts Center. We would then head further up on the 110 and find ourselves in the heart of Downtown LA where we might go to The Broad or any of the wonderful museums in Expo park. As night falls we might retreat to cozy “Izakaya Bizan” in “Little Tokyo” for some yakitori and Japanese lagers to close the day.
For day two we would pick up some breakfast burgers and take in the Grand Central Market before heading up to Altadena to see some of the older areas of LA and hike up to the Eaton Canyon waterfall to see more of the natural landscape of LA and get some killer views on the way. After a few hours we would come back for a snack and a tour through the incredible Huntington Gardens and Galleries in Pasadena until they close around 5pm before heading to “Il Fornaio” for classic and delicious Sicilian pasta and pizza.
On day three we would head out for breakfast and a show celebrating another of LA’s core communities with a drag brunch at “Hamburger Mary’s” WeHo before heading out to Malibu to see the beautiful exhibitions and gardens at The Getty, then setting our sights on the beach in Malibu to watch the sunset off Point Dume after which we would end our night with some upscale Peruvian including Ceviche, Lomo Saltado and Arroz con Pollo at “Rosaline” off Melrose.
Day four would begin at “Brother’s Burritos” in Hermosa Beach for another lovely breakfast burrito, this time with more veggies, and portioned into two smaller burritos for ultimate portability, and some more beach time down by Manhattan Beach Pier. We would have a quick lunch at any of the KazuNori hand roll bars on our way to Griffith Park. The ideal week would then end with dinner and a show at the Pantages or the Greek Theater depending on the season and the performers!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
For our shoutout we would love to highlight the incredible work and compassion of the people at Shalom Institute’s Shemesh Farms. Shemesh farms produces salt, herb and tea blends along with other fresh garden products like lavender sachets and honey right from their own soil, hydroponics, trees and bees and they do it all with the help of those that might not normally be valued by employers and businesses. Shemesh was our first client and has been our largest in terms of mutual investment, we have been given back as much in wonderful moments, meaningful work and engagement, as we have invested in time and expertise to steward their gardens. We love spending our Thursdays in Malibu with the wonderful directors and fellows. Shemesh proves the therapeutic value of agriculture and that, with the right support and guidance, those with mental or physical challenges can provide meaningful additions to any enterprise not only at the bottom line but also in the joy we find as we work together.