Director Michael Kuehnert’s award winning film Save the Farm jumps into the center of the battle to save the country’s largest urban farm, the 14 acre South Central Farm in the weeks leading up the farmers’ eviction.
Developed on an empty lot which was later bought by the City of Los Angeles under eminent domain and mitigated to the community after the Rodney King riots, the South Central Farm was a community venture with 350 farmers growing their own organic crops for food or for sale at the weekly farmer’s market on the land. But the lot’s previous owner, developer Ralph Horowitz claimed the city had violated a clause in the sale, and sued to get the property back. Three courts threw out his suit, but in 2004 Horowitz prevailed and bought back the property for $5 million, and claimed he had a buyer willing to pay $16.3 millions.
Horowitz claimed the buyer would build a warehouse that would create jobs in South Central. The farmers filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the sale of the property, which they lost. Horowitz began eviction procedures as celebrities and politicians took up the farmers’ cause. The Annenberg foundation put up $10 million towards the purchase of the land, and the farmers and their supporters raised the additional funds to meet Horowitz’s asking price of $16.3 million. Horowitz turned them down, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s began the eviction, arresting 40 people.
Kuehnert and his crew capture the action and angst of the farmers and their supporters, including actor Darryl Hannah and activists Julia Butterfly Hill and John Quigley, as helicopters swoop down and the sheriffs begin to drag off protestors. Bulldozers raze the crops and mature fruit trees.
It has been five years to the month since the farmers were evicted. The property is now up for sale again. For $16.3 million.