It was 8 a.m. Thursday, October 10. A black car pulled up in front of the corn patch near the bus stop on Sunset Boulevard by Palisades Electric.
Two women hopped out and started taking photos. Bruce Schwartz, a former Citizen of the Year and the man responsible for the corn patch, started chatting with them in Spanish.
The women were from Zoogocho Yatzachi el Bajo in Oaxaca Mexico. They told Bruce the corn plants reminded them of home, and then he went through the rows of corn to find ripen ears for gifts.
The scenario kept repeating itself over the next hour. A woman who was originally from El Salvador and works in Pacific Palisades stopped to admire the rows of corn. She too went home with corn.
Tina, who owns a farm in Cirebon in Java, Indonesia, and works as a caregiver in the Palisades, said “we grow corn, watermelon and mango. I have about 25 people who work for me.”
As Schwartz continued to chat with people who stopped by to look at the corn, Chris Fellows, who grew up in Minnesota and had become Schwartz’s assistant said, “I’m kind of learning about this [planting].” He admitted he hated up growing up in a farming community but has since become fascinated with botany and the growing process through Schwartz.
“It started when we planted the flowers,” he said. Originally Schwartz had planted flowers in that small plot of parkway. “People got angry when we moved them.”
Fellows said planting the corn was not easy because the plot had bad soil (clay) and the ground had to be dug up. “Then we spread chicken manure and planted seeds,” he said. “Frankly, I didn’t think it was going to grow.”
Fellows and Schwartz watered, with water provided by another long-time Palisadian Jamie McLeod, Palisades Electric owner, whose building is kitty-corner from the plot. McLeod’s dad owner Palisades Reality in the 1950s and his mom used to work at the Palisades drug store.
“Everybody loves the corn,” McLeod said.
Schwartz continued to be questioned by people who had stopped to admire the corn plants, which are now close to seven-feet tall. Fellows, who is disabled and had been homeless in Pacific Palisades, now lives by UCLA and has started to teach himself basic botany, with the hope of going back to school.
“I’ve been happy that I’ve gotten involved,” Fellows said. “I feel like I’m Bruce’s student. I’ve learned about phosphorus and its importance in crops.
“I feel like it’s the coming thing for people to grow their own food and go back to nature,” Fellows said. “Having talked to people for hours, I feel like we’ve tapped into something. This does seem to really affect people.
“It’s gotten a tremendous response from people that I never expected,” said Fellows who also helped Schwartz with the pumpkin patch along Pacific Coast Highway.
Once the pumpkins were harvested last month – you can see them at the YMCA Pumpkin Patch – Fellows and Schwartz planted lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli- along PCH.
Fellows said a lot of attention environmentally has been given to cars and driving less, but not a lot of attention has been given to biology and how it could make a difference.
Schwartz said, “There are 13,000 people in Los Angeles jails, which means there needs to be 39,000 meals a day.
“Imagine if we could use homeless people and inmates to help grow food on the thousands of acres in the city that are fallow,” Schwartz said. “With the weather we have here, we could grow food all year long.”
“There are 25,000 acres in Los Angeles under power lines,” Schwartz said. “What if we could get a nonprofit that could go around the city, to find land, to plant, with those incarcerated or in need helping?”
“There are all these dead spaces in the City that could be planted,” he said.
The corn is planted on parkway is next to a Metro bus stop. That site used to be covered with litter.
“I’ve had every bus driver thank me,” Fellows said. “It’s really helped this stop.”
(Editor’s note: Schwartz sent home two ears of corn with this writer. They were sweet and delicious.)