Temporal Growth

Joseph Redwood-Martinez is yet another advocate and participant in the movement of urban agriculture.  Joseph’s take on it however, is a different one than I have seen before.  According to his take on the current state of the US economy, the slump in the real estate market has left cities, especially California, full of open and empty spaces. “We know that real estate will come around.  We know that the people that want to build 12 tumblr_mk940g5PiR1s9ugc4o9_1280billion dollar apartments will.  In the meantime lets go for some new creative legislation.  Lets create a new kind of rental agreement, not a lease, but a license.  Lets call it an interim use license.”  His suggestion is an interesting approach to land that is currently inactive.  The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association did just this with Hayes Valley Farm.  This project is based on an Interim License with the city, transforming this empty space into a growing community center until it can be used for something else.  Free land, volunteer work, and recycled materials keep this project at extremely minimal costs, while getting members of the community together and teach people of the possibilities within their cityscape.  “When economy recovers, not if but when, and when development starts, we move.  Peacefully.  We are not tied to the space, the thing we are tied to is San Francisco.  The thing were tied to is a healthier ecosystem in our city and using this as a demonstration of what is possible in the temporary so all of those vacant realities can be transformed.”

I think it is hard to ignore the powerful message behind bringing community together and making living spaces more visually pleasing.  Projects like these are meant to provide people with opportunity and hope, while converting wasted space into a sustainable and productive area.  By producing a video with a very intimate one on one dialogue we are allured by Joseph’s message.  Images of what he has been able to produce through a community outreach program, getting as many people involved as possible, we as viewers have no choice but to applaud his valiant effort.


Assignment of the Day:

Is short term growth a valuable use of temporally limited space? Is it more valuable to educate people for the short term or grow for the long term?


Portable Sustainability

Truck farm is the product of two Brooklyn dwellers looking to provide an eye opening experience for others while providing themselves with fresh and local produce in the space they have.  Using many of the techniques that are available for green roof technology, Ian and Curt converted their 1986 Dodge Ram truck into a portable and efficient vegetable and herb garden.  Alive Structures, a Brooklyn based green roof service team, provided the truck farm with rainwater management systems.  These systems helped optimize the growing potential of the truck and convert a seemingly untraditional growing surface into a fully functional garden.


I think the great part of this mini series is the image that is portrayed to us as viewers.  Although I am not sure that they are encouraging all of us to convert all of our untraditional growing spaces into gardens, I think the message they are portraying is that if you have the motivation you can grow fresh produce nearly anywhere.  These gardeners are seemingly normal Brooklynites, not necessarily rich with an agricultural knowledge base.  However, they were inspired to create a sustainable system that people could see, experience, and understand.  This small garden plot could be built nearly anywhere, patios, rooftops, window planters, etc.  Although they keep the cost of converting this space disclosed, the pride and end product of creating a green space in the city is worth the money.

Assignment of the day:

Think of the space you occupy on a daily basis.  How much of this space are you using to its full potential?  How much of this space is wasted? What makes this space important to you? Could a shift in the spaces meaning increase your felt value towards it?

Guerilla Gardening with Ron Finley

This past week I was introduced to Ron Finley through Facebook and was encouraged to look him up and watch his TED talk.  A self-proclaimed Guerilla Gardener, Ron has led the South Central, CA urban agriculture movement working to provide fresh produce for the neighborhood and the key to change for the people of the city.  “To change the community you have to change the composition of the soil.  We are the soil,” says Ron during his ten minute TED talk.  Unsatisfied with the conditions and the limited food options available to the people within the cities boundaries, Finley took his disappointment to the stretch of grass in-between the street and the sidewalk.  Converting this curbside garden created some controversy within the city politics, but was refuted and accepted as a positive act of defiance.  This was only the first step.  Ron has since increased the size of his garden and spread to many more locations, providing hope through growth around the city.  “See, I’m and artist.  Gardening is my graffiti.  I grow my art.”  Ted is working to not only eliminate the food desert that he and 26.5 million other people in the US live in, but also working to beautify the cityscape and provide opportunity for the members of these communities.

Through this TED talk, Ron works to appeal to those who want to enact change through doing.  He is not interested in sitting down with people and talking about things that need to be changed, he wants people to pick up a shovel and join him in getting their hands dirty.  Although the TED event may not be the best place to find people who are looking to kneel in the dirt, the message he’s trying to get across is an important one.  Talking behind closed doors can only get us so far, putting the ideas to work however, can help us finally begin to fix these places.  Unlike many of urban farming doings I have shared, this one is not asking for serious devotion of time, instead he is presenting an opportunity for nearly anyone.  This is important because it can be understood and acted upon by a much larger population.

I am curious whether or not this movement will really catch on as I hope it will, or whether it will remain an underground movement coming from within the city.

Also check out LA Green Grounds website.  http://lagreengrounds.org/


Brooklyn Grows

I was introduced to the Brooklyn Grange project through a friend who is doing work for the collective.  This project is working to create new and sustainable methods of urban farming in Brooklyn, NY.  Currently Brooklyn Grange occupies two rooftops and is growing over 40,000 pounds of organic produce a year.  Although only three years old, this project has made incredible leaps and bounds towards developing urban farming methods that can be considered for future expansion of urban space.

BGourfarms-NorthernBLVDTheir mission is “To create a fiscally sustainable model for urban agriculture and to produce healthy, delicious vegetables for our local community while doing the ecosystem a few favors as well.”  The intentions of this project are pretty obvious, create a path for future city development through the passion these people share for farming, but the challenge of doing this in a way that appeals to the community and people outside the community is the issue.  We have all heard the arguments surrounding the “local” movement and the importance of creating sustainable living methods, but whether or not people are willing to accept the challenge is the real issue we face.  Through projects like Brooklyn Grange, people are introduced to the importance and success of these sustainable developments on a daily basis.  With only two rooftop farms in action, the BK Grange has produced over 40,000 pounds of fresh produce per year, suggesting the immense possibilites available through rooftop conversion.  According to the USDA “Fact Book”, the average American consumes roughly 20o pounds of fresh vegetables a year.  This means that with only two rooftops, equivalent to only about two acres, Brooklyn Grange provides for over 200 Americans a year.  Imagine the possibilities!  Seeing is believing, and having a rooftop farm in view from your office or apartment window on a daily basis can have some profound impact on your understanding of urban growth possibilities.


I believe that the biggest obstacle we face in the movement towards a “Localvore” sense of consumption is convincing people that this is in fact the step forward we must take.  It is hard to move away from the practices we have had in play for so long, but the time has come where we must make a decision about how we will adapt to our changing global situation.  Continuing to consume products through impractical means of shipping and receiving will, at some point, no longer stand as a feasible option of consumption and instead of having to deal with the total collapse of this system we need to begin incorporating more sustainable methods into our daily lives.  Although I, and I would assume Brooklyn Grange, don’t believe that the solution is as simple as converting our rooftops to Green spaces I do believe that projects such as these open our eyes to the possibilities for the future.  Through a combination of methods put forward by these progressive thinkers, I believe that we can create a more environmentally friendly means of consumption and sustainability.

What do you think?  Are projects like these a step in the right direction, or merely a temporary solution to keep people happy?  And, if you’re not convinced, what do you think is the next step forward?


NP 2/26

Food Foward


Food Forward was a PBS series that aired in 2012 critiquing the American food system.  The show documented how the system works and the flaws in which continue to be inflicted upon us as consumers.  Through interviews with chefs, farmers, teachers and many others involved in the complex chain of distribution, we get an inside look on what people across the country are doing to right the wrongs inflicted upon us.  The purpose of the show was to create conversation and encourage people to explore these alternative options rather than serve as another warning message or popular cooking show.  Information presented throughout the show provides unique perspectives into more sustainable methods of providing the country with food.  The episode I came across was great!  Instead of presenting information about how doomed our planet is, and leaving us feeling depressed and worried. Food Forward presented encouraging stories from truly inspirational people.  In the episode I saw Abeni Ramsey from Oakland, California is working to improve the city by reshaping what we have come to understand as the “cityscape”.  She is working to convert abandoned city property into local urban farmland.  By involving the community, she has been able to clean up the city and provide fresh produce and goods to people in the area.  This has not only done wonders for teaching people about good food and eating healthier, but has brought the people together in a restorative manner.  Cleaning up decrepit city property and greening the city have as much importance as the city itself.  With cities growing and more and more being built, encouraging city dwellers to work towards a greener landscape and providing safe and healthy places for kids and their parents to spend time becomes something of serious importance.


Soil Kitchen

The Soil Kitchen documentary is about a collection of Philadelphians that formed a soil-testing center within the city.  The idea behind their effort is to test soil for people who are interested in growing a garden inside the city limits.  Philadelphia is littered with brown fields, places that contain contaminated soils, which not only put the daily lives of the city dwellers at risk, but also prevent people from using the soil for growing.  Providing free soil samples for interested civilians worked to improve city conditions and bring these hazard sites to the eyes of policy makers.

The brains and muscle behind the Soil Kitchen have high hopes of greening our ever-growingcityscapes and bringing local produce to the tables of people that rarely experience fresh food.  “Urban farming is particularly vibrant, because it is so visible.  A lot of our farming happens outside the city so we don’t see the process, but urban farming you can walk by on a daily basis.”  This idea of bringing local opportunity to the immediate eye, sounds to me like the most logical and appealing method.  With cities continuing to grow and goods continuing to further themselves from our central populations, the need to find solutions is becoming ever important.  Incorporating ideas from cities surrounding farmland into the cityscape itself is going to be an important avenue of exploration in the near future.