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City Heights is becoming a model for how land in dense urban neighborhoods can be put to productive use. Corn stalks, melon vines and nopal cactus flourish there.

With the help of local advocates, some of that produce is beginning to trickle into local restaurants, helping refugees tap into the growing farm-to-table movement to supplement their incomes. But mostly, the fruits and vegetables harvested in the neighborhood are still feeding the families that grow them, or the neighbors they sell to directly — many of them refugees.

The New York Times recently visited the City Heights Farmers Market and nearby New Roots Community Farm to highlight the neighborhood’s place on the forefront of a growing trend in poor urban communities: subsistence agriculture. The Times said:

New Roots, with 85 growers from 12 countries, is one of more than 50 community farms dedicated to refugee agriculture, an entrepreneurial movement spreading across the country.

We recently explained how City Heights became the refugee hotspot that it is, and how farming is helping those refugees support themselves while becoming part of their community. The Times notes:

In City Heights, where half the residents live at or below the federal poverty line, the three-year-old farmer’s market was the city’s first in a low-income neighborhood, a collaboration between the nonprofit International Rescue Committee and the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

One can hear 15 different languages there, amid the neat rows of kale, rape and banana plants — but body language is the lingua franca.

“If I see a weed, I pull it, shaking my head,” said Mrs. Musame, the Somali farmer. “We understand each other.”

Adrian Florido is a reporter for He covers San Diego’s neighborhoods. What should he write about next?

Contact him directly at or at 619.325.0528.

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Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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