New PBS docuseries highlights Urban Garden in Watts

LOS ANGELES — As one of the most densely populated areas of Los Angeles County, Watts has very little green space. 

It’s one of many reasons Tim Watkins is so proud of the urban garden he’s helped bring to life.

“We believe in the concept of ‘Don’t move. Improve.’ That instead of trying to escape this place that has its unfortunate reputation of not having great things happen very often, we decided to invest more in it,” said Watkins, President and CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee.

The idea for Mudtown Farms was planted more than a decade ago and is the subject of a new 4 episode docuseries entitled, “10 Days in Watts” airing on PBS SoCal. 

Director Raphael Sbarge had worked with Watkins on a previous project and wanted to do a deeper dive into his past.

“What they’ve done is support a community that has very few resources. What they’ve done is actually make a difference in generations of people who live here,” Sbarge said.

(Spectrum News/Ariel Wesler)

The series chronicles three generations of activists in the Watkins family, as well as students, farmers and community leaders, committed to healing past social injustices.

Watkin’s father, Ted, created the Watts Labor Community Action Committee during the Civil Rights Movement. Now, Watkin’s leads the community-based organization, which operates the garden.

“By teaching people how to consume better, then we will also teach them how to reduce their dependency on synthetic medications,” Watkins said.

He says being in a food desert, there aren’t many grocery stores to get fruits and vegetables, so on Fridays, they offer free produce from the farm.

“We set up a table outside our front gate and they bring their own bag and they come get their food,” said MudTown Farms Manager Alicia Salmeron-Blaisdell. 

And on Saturdays, residents can get dirty volunteering in the garden.

“It started out 2, 3, 4, 5 and now we’re getting 50, 60, 70 volunteers and now we have to back up a little bit and figure out how to make the experience authentic and meaningful,” Watkins said.

“In people’s own words, you hear about what it’s like to be in Watts and what the community is like, the love that they feel, the Watts pride that they feel, and the passion for what’s ahead,” Sbarge said.

He acknowledges he’s a white man telling this story in a Black and Brown neighborhood, so he treated the story with the utmost respect.

“I felt the enormous weight of being able to honor the stories that we have been told and that led to a lot of sleepless nights honestly,” he said.

A chance to showcase Watts from a new perspective, one as fresh as the produce being served.

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