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Environment & Science

How Pierce College Farm Center saved Taylor Orci from being a city kid

Goats graze on the 426-acre campus of Los Angeles Pierce College, a two-year community college and part of the Los Angeles Community College District
Goats graze on the 426-acre campus of Los Angeles Pierce College, a two-year community college and part of the Los Angeles Community College District
Gary Leonard/LA Public Library

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I'm trying to figure out how to make farms sound sexy, but instead I keep thinking back to a cartoon. A little girl from the city is trying to solve a mystery. She picks up a clue, which is a milk bottle, and she asks herself, "Where did this come from?" Then, after some thinking, she lights up: "I know! The cow factory!"

I was that city kid. If you asked me where stuff came from, I'd have probably told you scientists plunk chunks of stuff into a funnel and then it comes out transformed and shiny on a conveyor belt and then people with hairnets inspect the line for imperfections and maybe the occasional old boot. That's it. That's how everything is made. 

And I thought that was great, because as a city kid, I knew that nature was gross.

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When I was growing up in L.A., the ocean was a place where you got rashes if you swam in it, the sky was where they came from when they were spraying for the medfly. There was the Northridge earthquake, floods where we had to sandbag the front door to our apartment and fires that made ashes that fell down our faces at recess like snow. Then we tried to eat it like snow and that was gross. Nature wasn't beautiful, it was a disaster.

I think I went to a farm once on a Girl Scout trip. Or maybe it was just a cow. I went to one cow.

(A cow.  LAPL/Security Pacific National Bank Collection)

I didn't remember much except we all stood in line to touch a live cow's udder.  I remember staring at this warm mass of teats on this suspiciously indifferent cow and thinking, "This is just weird." Milk came from a carton, from the store, from a place like the cow factory. And that was clean and not gross at all and no one had to think about where things came from because they were always there.

As an adult I've tried to be more aware of where stuff comes from, especially if I eat it. Food comes from farms. Even writing that I'm thinking, "Does it?" Just like when I heard a Subway commercial say, "Tomatoes that taste like they're picked off the vine," and my brain went, "That's all tomatoes!" But then I thought, "Is it? Are they?"

City kids need to know where food comes from because otherwise they become me. So two years ago, when pumpkin carving time came around, my boyfriend took me to a place called the Pierce College Farm Center, near Woodland Hills, and I went nuts.

They didn't just have cows, they had horses and goats on an obstacle course and they grew their own pumpkins and, my favorite thing: the corn maze. I had never been in a corn maze! They gave you a map and peppered in trivia about geese migration which was meh, but wow, did I love that corn maze.

I loved the Farm Center! I loved that there was a place in the city where kids could go and see a growing pumpkin patch or pet a goat or buy food grown on the farm at the country store. As a kid, this is all I ever wanted, and here it was.

I couldn't wait to go back. All year I told my friends, "Have you heard about the Pierce College Farm Center? It's got all this stuff!" And this year when I went back, I made my friends go with me to the corn maze, but the facts weren't about geese migration, they were about how the Farm Center was closing.

I got this weird feeling I've had before like I'm one of the kids on the book jacket of "Where the Sidewalk Ends." There's nothing more for you here, this is your last time in this corn maze. Buying my pumpkin at the register, I asked the clerk if the Farm Center really was closing. She handed me a flyer to sign a petition online.

I read the language for why the Farm Center was closing and it just made me sad. Sad because of how complicated something like an educational farm can be. The administration says the Farm Center costs too much; the other side says it's self-sufficient. What I wouldn't give to have a dorky maze about geese facts be the focal point of my Farm Center experience right about now.

A quaint farm center closing the day after Christmas seems like a great premise for a Hallmark movie where the whole town gets together to save a meaningful thing. And in the last minutes, the narrator would say, "And the children of Woodland Hills learned that food does come from farms after all, and not from factories like Taylor thought back in the '80s."

It would be a Christmas miracle.