Urban homesteading loosely refers to the formal pursuit of local sustainable living, urban agriculture, and a general awareness of DIY household consumption and recycling practices. This concept, however, is nothing new to Highland Park and to many communities in Northeast Los Angeles. Many members of the area's large immigrant population, who often come from rural areas, have practiced urban homesteading not as a lifestyle choice but out of necessity. A lack of financial resources has lead residents to informal and organic urban agriculture and recycling practices.
Today, Highland Park's hilly open spaces and bohemian history have made it a magnet for homesteading practices, bridging current middle-class trends with those of the immigrant community. The Milagro Allegro Garden is a prime example of this cross pollination. Co-founded by longtime Highland Park resident and homeowner Oscar Duardo in 2009, the community garden rents space in a vacant, long abandoned city lot that was once an eyesore in the neighborhood, but the Garden is not just a beautification project. Diep Tran, owner of the popular Vietnamese fusion diner Good Girl Dinette, works with the Garden's Ontivero Family, a Highland Park couple with an impressive urban farm, as well as other farmers growing at Milagro, to supply her restaurant with non-native Asian herbs used on her menu. Together they are building a food economy and ecology within Highland Park's borders offering healthy, locally grown options to consumers.
Above, owner of Good Girl Dinette Diep Tran discusses Highland Park's DIY and urban homesteading sensibility from an immigrant perspective; William Ontiveros, manager of a private mini-farm in Highland Park and herbal supplier for Good Girl Dinette, describes his homestead and farm; Oscar Duardo describes the struggles to gain support for his community garden; outdoor instructor and Highland Park homeowner Christopher Nyerges defines urban homesteading, addresses the confusion of legal issues pertaining to the lifestyle, and describes his personal practices.