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Meet Ken Sparks of The Farmer Ken in South LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ken Sparks.

Ken, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was raised in a city called Twinsburg, a small suburb outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Growing up, my family always had fruit trees and a garden. I remember helping my Grandmother and Great – Grandmother in their garden when I was five years old. I started my own garden plot when I was in Middle School and had one every year until I left for college.

While at The Ohio State University, I was a recipient of a USDA Scholarship. I was active in The College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and served as President of MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences). One summer, I worked with a Natural Landscape Specialist at The Cleveland Metroparks. We’d select plants and build garden plots throughout the 18 reservations in Metroparks. This gave me insight on creative ways to untilize plants and incorprate them into various surroundings. As one of my humanities projects, I took the initiative on starting a community Garden in an under-resourced neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. I was elated by the impact that the garden had on the community and I wanted to continue having a greater impact with more communities. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a Major in African-American Studies, Minor in Music and Minor in Natural Resources.

Shortly after graduation, I started my new journey in Chicago. I worked for Non-Profits and Governmental Agencies providing Education and Enrichment programs for youth, families and the greater community. While in my Graduate Program at The University of Illinois at Chicago, I continued my work in under-resourced communities. At one of my sites in Englewood, I secured a major grant to build a school community garden. I took a holistic approach, incorporating gardening, healthy cooking, fitness and nutrition while providing the experience and skills for those to start their own home gardens. Upon completion of Master of Education program, I relocated to Los Angeles.

Here in Los Angeles, I continued my work directly in communities. I helped revitalize a community garden in Watts and provided resources for several gardens across Los Angeles. I also secured partnerships to provide healthy cooking and fitness opportunities for youth and families.

When I purchased my first home in LA, I was finally able to reconnect with gardening in a deeper way. After the passing of my Grandmother from a long battle with cancer, my passion reignited stronger than ever before. This served as the catalyst to launch my company, The Farmer Ken. My current garden space features two vegetable gardens, herbs, a patio pond garden, nature garden, a fruit orchard and my own chickens. Gardening is therapeutic to me. During the pandemic, It has become even more apparent to many that gardening essential. My company can help you successfully grow food in your own backyard and community.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has not always been smooth. One challenge that I have faced over the years has been finding a niche that allows the use of my talents and skills while maintaining independence and authenticity to my true self.

Another challenge has been securing funding and locations to create community gardens. Networking and creating partnerships has been integral through this process.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Farmer Ken – what should we know?
One of the initiatives is Garden Consultation. This service provides garden planning and implementation to clients and is tailored to their space and needs.

Another initiative is the Implementation of Community Garden Spaces. In areas where space is limited; which is common in many urban communities, my company helps identifying a common place where people can have a plot to grow their own produce. It is imperative that communities are provided with gardening resources, holistic programs and activities.

Garden Education is an additional area of focus. Gardening is a “lost art”. There are skills that are learned through experience and science behind some of the techniques that are used. One of my goals is to equip people with knowledge to be successful with their own gardens.

I am proud to carry on the legacy of gardening that was instilled upon me during my youth. In looking back at my work over the years, I take pride in the development of projects from conception to the finished product. Two recent successes have been a new partnership with CAT Footwear and a partnership with Vermisterra, an organic soil amendment company.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I have a positive outlook on life and am an easy – going person who lives life to the fullest. I am determined, goal-oriented, and am not afraid to reach for my dreams. I am also a creative person and channel that creativity in my garden projects.

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Image Credit:

@SylverLiningMedia, @JocelynRoberta

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