By Maurice "Big Mo" Bell 

It all started about one year ago. Me, Darryl (who was in San Quentin with me), Drew (the farm manager), and my brother Siddiqqi were working together. My first day on the farm, I looked around like, “What are we doing way out here? And why is this just a bunch of open land with so much debris and vegetation everywhere?” So as time went on, Drew informed us guys that we were going to transform this huge piece land into a working farm. 

This is me, Big Mo, looking and feeling happy on our farm. 

This is me, Big Mo, looking and feeling happy on our farm. 

Now at this point in time, it’s important for you to keep in mind that I had only been released from prison and working on staff at Planting Justice for less than 90 days. My job title was as a member of the “Transform Your Yard” (TYY for short) crew, and we actually became a crew. 

Anywho, as I was looking around this jungle, while Drew was explaining our task, our goal and mission, I was thinking to myself, “I have heard of Transform Your Yard, but this is ridiculous. How are we supposed to transform all of this land?!” In my mind, there was no way we were going to actually do any of the things that this guy was asking us to do: clear this 5 acre lot of all debris, lay an irrigation system, build a fence around the whole property, make some swales, and then build a retaining wall, and so on and so on. Imagining all of this work in my mind, I was looking around for power tools, but all I saw were axes, shovels, picks, digging bars & posthole diggers, just to name a few - oh yeah, there were even more hand tools to name. So I asked Drew for confirmation purposes, “Are we doing all this work with only those hand tools?” And to no surprise, he answered, “yes.” I started to laugh at first, but Drew was looking way too serious, and I had just started working at Planting Justice, so I didn’t want to piss off the boss! So I just said, “Wow, wow, wow.” 

Our brother Siddiqqi, may he Rest in Peace. This is what a lot of the land looked like before we did a lot of work to turn it into a farm! 

Our brother Siddiqqi, may he Rest in Peace. This is what a lot of the land looked like before we did a lot of work to turn it into a farm! 

Then I told myself to basically psyche myself out that this was just part of the initiation to prove that I wanted the job bad enough and could handle it. Because if you could hang when we first got started on the farm, then you could always hang with TYY. Welcome to TYY! Boy, was I wrong. 

So we dug in, and come to find out, there was no initiation, there was just a lot of hard work and a very beautiful and meaningful vision. So as time went on, we built the retaining wall, we cleared all 5 acres of debris & vegetation, we built and installed our own water system for rain water, and treated water. We installed an irrigation system, put in fencing around the whole 5 acre farm, and we also completed those swales, which are now 90% planted up and manicured daily. 

Here is a close up look at the irrigation system we built. 

Here is a close up look at the irrigation system we built. 

This is the most amazing project that I’ve ever been a part of, so to see it from the very beginning, up until now, it’s like night and day. Just knowing that I had a lot to do with that brings me so much joy. It feels great to know that this farm that I helped build will feed our community for hundreds of years. 

Our newest team member, Bilal, making friends with the goats on his 11th day free after a 20 year prison sentence. This farm is healing for those of us who have been to prison. 

Our newest team member, Bilal, making friends with the goats on his 11th day free after a 20 year prison sentence. This farm is healing for those of us who have been to prison. 

Well, at this exact date and time, the farm is at 60% of its full potential. There is still a lot of work to be done. We are currently looking for volunteers, supporters and donators. How ever you can help us keep our farm alive, our dream alive, and mainly our future alive, is greatly appreciate and very much welcomed. 

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