Don’t get me wrong, I love trees. In fact I adore trees. Oak, Sycamore, Ficus, Juniper, Jacaranda, Magnolia, and of course the glorious Pine. There is no sweeter sound than the breeze through the pines. When that gentle whistle is audible, it is a good signifier that you are in the right place.
Despite my love and respect for all varieties of the stoic giants, I will go to war with their roots, ripping and tearing through them with a ferocious anger. In the urban farming setting trees can be one of my worst combatants. On the simplest level, the shade they throw about can stunt and stifle the best effort to grow food. But underneath the surface is where the creeping beast dwells, waiting to attack and suck the life out of months of work. This is the long reaching and relentless monster of tree roots.
As the heat wave showed its first signs of breaking this week, all around Los Angeles you can finally feel Fall starting to creep in. And with that transition we start to say goodbye to our favorite Summer crops and begin to prepare for the new season.
The Summer of 2012 was a strange one not just here but all over the nation. It led to many crops performing a little worse than they have in the past but that’s the spirit of working in harmony with nature, sometimes she makes it a little harder for you
Why don’t more people grow their own food?
This question inspired us to start Farmscape, four years ago, yesterday. We saw the potential for Los Angeles to become a “garden city,” where neighbors and hired farmers together grew enormous quantities of top-quality food within the city limits, from a network of farms strung across our yards and our rooftops. We imagined a city where landscaping became farmscaping, improving our food, our health, and our neighborhoods alike.
It’s been a delicious, delightful, adventurous -- at times back-straining -- four-year journey since that day. We are not nearly done with our mission, but we have made incredible progress. We are honored and proud to share our birthday with you: our members and our fans.
If You Don't Eat Your Meat, You Can't Have Any Pudding!
-Pink Floyd, The Wall
The front page of Saturday’s New York Times featured coverage of student-led school lunch protests. Healthier school lunches with larger servings of fruits and vegetables have not been well-received, leaving students to seek out junk food snacks as a supplement to meals they consider to be insufficient.
Nutrition in school lunches has been a point of emphasis in districts around the country for good reason. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years and 36% of adults are now considered obese. As a result, First Lady Michelle Obama has made the fight against childhood obesity her top priority.
But, even if the motivation is noble, the question is whether the current response to this serious issue is working. And if these student protests are any indication, the answer is “no.”
I keep seeing news about urban agriculture concepts, and even financed projects, that are enormous. Big ten-acre lots for a closed-loop super-farm. Hydroponic mega-greenhouses across entire warehouse rooftops. Indoor warehouse farms with enough grow lights to require a hectare of solar panels. Big rotating tumblers of plants around aeroponic misters. The next vertical innovation, some foodscraper using a masterful system of mirrors to redirect all sunlight in a half mile radius to a thirty-story stack of aquaponic tanks. Alright, some of these are hyperbolic, but just a little.
In truth, most of these projects might be feasible, horticulturally or even financially. But when I think about the goal of the Urban Farming Movement -- bringing food production to the city to create a more local, or a more transparent food supply, grown using socially and environmentally conscientious practices, and hopefully producing a fresher, tastier product -- well I don’t picture a Zipper carnival ride or anything the size of Sams Club. I think small.