At PCH/Sunset, Courtesy of ‘Farmer’ Schwartz
A small piece of land between Vons grocery store and the 76 gas station on Pacific Coast Highway was littered with pieces of asphalt, scattered trash and weeds on June 10.
Today, it features numerous pumpkins that weigh more than 100 pounds. People like Altadena resident Chris Marino, who has been visiting the beach by Gladstone’s this summer, have been watching the pumpkins grow.
“I love what you did,” Marino told Pacific Palisades resident Bruce Schwartz on August 31. “It’s beautiful!”
Schwartz, who spent 20 years in agriculture, has a dream not only for the Palisades, but for all of Los Angeles wherever there are vacant lots.
“My dream would be to see this kind of garden/project promoted not only here, but in blighted neighborhoods,” he told Circling the News. “There’s so much data about horticultural therapy–how planting and growing can provide hope.”
Schwartz, who was Citizen of the Year in 2017 for his beautification efforts elsewhere in the Palisades (and also for the placement of high-fire-severity signs that prohibited camping in the brush), would like to see the City sponsor a pilot program where inner-city school children could watch vegetables grow.
“Imagine if we had green zones around town,” he said, noting that there are about 25,000 acres of land under power lines, where nothing is grown.
Last year the City tore up a healthy pumpkin patch on a median strip in Santa Monica Canyon after somebody complained it presented a visual impediment to drivers. Now that same median has fallow ground, filled with weeds.
“The City is making people jump through hoops for just a small landscaping program,” Schwartz said.
At the PCH location, once he secured water for the plants from 76 owner Robert Munakash, Schwartz and 76 manager Carlos Rodriguez started preparing the ground.
The ground was so hard that Schwartz had to use a pick to break it up. He then purchased chicken manure fertilizer and Miracle-Gro, and mixed it into the soil.
When the soil was properly aerated and enriched, Schwartz planted Big Mac pumpkin seeds. When CTN visited the site on August 31, the vines were healthy and the number of large pumpkins turning orange was impressive.
“I didn’t think it was going to turn out to be this great,” said Rodriguez, who pointed across the street at the land between Gladstone’s parking lot and PCH. “Look at the ugly weeds. This area here used to be really bad, too.”
Now, he said, “People are taking pictures all day.”
“People driving by comment on the pumpkins,” Schwartz said. One woman in a Ferrari gave him $20 when she saw him working in the patch. He told her that he would use the money for the manure fund.
Schwartz said that a couple of the pumpkins have been stolen but hopes that people will respect the project as the pumpkins continue to grow.
He wonders if people would like to bid on them as a kind of fundraiser, so that additional plots can be started in other locations around the city. He doesn’t want to compete with the Palisades-Malibu YMCA pumpkin sales every October in Temescal Canyon.
Several of the PCH pumpkins are gigantic, and Rodriguez took one of them and put it on display inside the 76 station, gaining more attention for the patch.
Schwartz has also planted corn on the parkway next to the bus stop between Vons and Palisades Electric. Jamie McLeod, the owner of that store, has provided the water for that crop.
Stop by, and when you do, in addition to the corn plants and the pumpkins, notice the scarecrows, donated by longtime Palisadian Cindy Simon.