We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Martinez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, what do you attribute your success to?
Any “success” that I may have achieved has come as a direct result of those who have come before me. From family members, community organizers, and land stewards, those who have planted the “seeds” before me have allowed me to have the creative freedom to water these seeds in my own unique way.
Ensuring that I was in control of defining what success looked like was extremely important for me as well. It’s easy to compare your own personal development as well as the development of an organization with those around you, and that inevitably can be draining. Early on I made the decision to create our own pace/rhythm and ensure that we would stay true to that pace as we grew along the way.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Over the past 9 years, I have continued to learn and grow by making mistakes and identifying my own gaps of knowledge. One thing that I am most proud of is the fact that this work is an embodiment of my lived experiences growing up around Los Angeles. From gardening and composting at my childhood home, living close to one of the largest landfills in the county, to having an opportunity to be an elementary school teacher for a few years, all of these experiences contributed to the creation of LA Compost. Starting a nonprofit while in graduate school and working 2 part-time jobs was not easy. What was helpful during this season was having a community that was willing to support my ideas and volunteer their time to put these intentions into action. Starting LA Compost in and around the neighborhoods where I grew up allowed me to pilot programs with small businesses, schools, and households where I already had established connections. It took time for this concept of localized composting solutions to catch on here in Los Angeles and looking back, I’m grateful for taking our time to build a solid foundation of supporters. What I’ve learned along the way is that this work can’t be done alone. Communities have so much to offer, and collaboration is key. Just as life within the soil is supported by a complex network of macro and microorganisms, our organization is supported by a diverse community across LA County.
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.
If I had a week to show a friend around Los Angeles I would take them to a few of my favorite spots around the city. Throughout the week I would take them to eat at the following locations La Caravana Salvadorian Restaurant, Maestro, Chichen Itza, Shin Sem Gumi, Folliero’s, X’tsiosu and Cielito Lindo. As far as places to experience and hang out, we would make our way over to Cottonwood Urban Farm, Bike the LA River bike trail to explore Griffith Park, Hike in Elysian and Debs Park, Visit Grand Central Market, the Ave 26-night market, visit a few local gardens such as Arlington, Huntington, the Arboretum, and Descanso Gardens, check out a Dodger Game, visit the Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum and end our trip with a walk around LA State Historic Park with drinks at either Highland Park Brewery or Brewjeria Brewers.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would dedicate my shout out to my maternal grandfather and my father. Both of these individuals taught me so much throughout my life, and I admire their work ethic and creativity. My grandfather was a carpenter who contributed to the buildings that make up the Los Angeles Skyline, as well as the treehouse he constructed for my siblings and I in our childhood backyard. He could take any scrap pile of wood and create something beautiful.
My father taught my siblings and I the importance of soil health at a young age while also teaching us the importance of restoring something that was once considered to no longer have value. As an upholsterer for the past 40 years, my father would take my brother and I to pick up discarded furniture off the sidewalk. We would help him remove staples from the fabric, fix broken furniture legs, and create new buttons to give this piece of furniture new life. Both my grandfather and father, without trying, we’re introducing me to the gospel of compost at an early age. They showed me that a pile of wood or discarded furniture (like food scraps prior to being added to a compost pile) are not broken or valueless/worthless, but simply incomplete.
First and third: Kevin Liu Fouth: Adrienne Hayden