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Homegirl Cafe Plants Seeds for Urban Farming

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2010, at 11:59AM
Homegirl Cafe Wooly Pocket Ed Fuentes

Seeds are planted in the "edible wall" on the side of Homegirl Cafe.

Under a beating sun, tattoed men and woman fresh into adulthood gently planted strawberries, mint, and tomatillos on Tuesday. Taking brief breaks under token shade from the Gold Line bridge that crosses Alameda, the homeboys and homegirls stopped to look at the 24-foot-long vertical garden that now hangs on the south wall of the building that houses Homeboy Industries and the Homegirl Cafe.

While the gang prevention program has been forced to shut down many of its offerings due to money issues, the cafe remains open for business. “It’s been a rough patch,” said Father Boyle to the small gathering of pro-green, pro-jobs supporters.

The wall garden, designed by Woolly Pocket and a project of the non-profit Urban Farming, is intended to provide crops for use in the cafe's menu.

The "edible wall" has pockets filled with small crops. First created to allow indoor gardening, Woolly Pocket has expanded into education programs for schools and now finding ways bring harvests to urban cores.

100% of the materials are made from recycled plastic bottles, which are made into a fiber that is felt-like in touch. Each pocket, which takes 16 plastic water bottles out of landfills, is lined on the back to allow proper drainage while aerating and protecting roots.

“We can cover the whole building and indoors. It’s a flexible system,” says Woolly Pockets co-creator Miguel Nelson. “We have a restaurants that used it for a lush eco-statement, but not to grow their own food. Homegirl Cafe is the first.”

While this first wall was selected for the sun and water source, more pockets can be added. “They can climb higher, or even wrap around the building,” says Nelson, hoping other cafes catch on to the idea of growing their own food sources.

If there is the right place to plant seasonal seeds, it is where Boyle’s homeboys and homegirls spend their days growing hope.

Homeboy Industries / Homegirl Cafe / 130 W. Bruno St

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