Women of Impact: Alexys Romo, Founder of Black Thumb Farm
It was a trip to the Philippines that changed Alexys Romo’s perspective on food and farming.
The San Fernando Valley local who grew up in Van Nuys and went to Northridge Academy High School didn’t grow food at all until she was 19—with the exception of casually participating in it when visiting her grandparents who lived in Oklahoma.
After graduating from high school, she had no interest in going to college, but her parents encouraged her to do something, to find what she wanted to do. Passionate about basketball, she played at a junior college in Maryland.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I work hard. I had a good work ethic because I played sports. So, I know how to hustle,” shared Alexys on an interview with Valley Views, a local radio program. She found herself volunteering at an orphanage in the Philippines, where she was going to run a basketball camp for three months.
“Then I got there, and everything changed. I was living in this rural village in the Philippines. I’m living with these orphans, learning how to grow food because they grow their own food there, working with chickens. I’ve never done none of this. I’ve never even seen what a mango tree looks like!” Alexys talks about her introduction to farming.
Less than 72 hours from her arrival, the house mom of the orphanage wakes her up at 5:30am, and gives her a crash course, handing her a machete and showing her how to cut the tree, harvest the cassava, cut the roots, and clean it.
“It was my first experience growing a plant, harvesting a plant, and eating it. It (the experience) blew my mind and changed my live forever.”
When Alexys came back to the San Fernando Valley, she started working at Enrich LA, a program building school gardens and teaching students how to plant and harvest. That’s when the concept of Black Thumb Farm began to take root. She wanted to provide a space for the community and those who were passionate about food sovereignty, a food system where everyone succeeds and thrives, and food justice.
Black Thumb Farm started as a mobile program but found its home at Cottonwood Urban Farm in Panorama City. Alexys shares more than ten years of farming and gardening experience with the community and creates a space to educate kids and young adults to “fight food injustice through hands-on training and experience, all the while providing our communities with access to health, quality produce.”
Mentorship is a huge part of Black Thumb Farm. Alexys and her team offer several programs geared towards teaching the youth ages 14 – 21. Black Thumb Farm Hands provides a space to learn how to farm and garden as well as teaching the history of local farming practices. Their Fellowship program offers young people a chance to work closely with their admin team and gain real life skills in nonprofit management, community involvement, and food distribution. They also offer donation-based community classes, discussing wellness from gardening tips to yoga and more.