Los Angeles Times

One of LA's oldest community gardens thrived for decades. Then the water wars began

LOS ANGELES - The old Italian men pass their mornings near the top of the hill, tending thick grape vines and rows of fava beans, smoking crumbling Toscano cigars, staying out of the house. If you try to call Francesco "Frank" Mitrano at home, his wife will brusquely tell you that he's at "the farm."

The farm is a patch of soil by the 110 Freeway, where he harvests enough tomatoes from his crop to make spaghetti sauce for his family's weekly Sunday dinner. "Twenty-one people," he exclaims.

A half-century ago, Filipino seafarers re-created a piece of the old country on this weedy hillside in San Pedro.

Italian fishermen quickly joined them, as did others with horticultural skills honed all over the world - Mexico, Laos, India, Japan, Indonesia, Croatia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Arizona and Lawndale.

More than 250 parcels are connected by a maze of trails and pipes and hoses. Avocado trees soar as high as 60 feet. Giant banana leaves, ratoons of sugar cane and bright orange guavas - set amid a jumble of sheds,

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