More than 80% of Americans live in cities and they need access to real, fresh food. Approximately 23.5 million people live in food deserts, where supermarkets are over a mile away but fast food restaurants are found on every corner. We know fast food is cheap, addictive and incredibly destructive to health. These food deserts happen to be in areas where people live below the poverty line. As a result, the poor are forced to rely on processed foods instead of whole foods.
Our current obesity/health crisis is directly connected to the food crisis. If food isthe problem, then it is also the solution. And crisis propels people to come up with creative solutions. Urban farmers are people who grow food wherever they can, such as window boxes, roof tops,abandoned lots, etc. Many of the lots and random urban corners are technically not legal areas for gardens because they belong to the city. So the “guerrilla garden” movement is born. This is about people taking risks and taking a stand for what is right for health and for humanity.
The implications of growing gardens, especially food forests, in urban environments has huge implications, not only for people’s physical health but for their psyches, too. It gives everyone joy, hope and gratitude. Plants have the power to turn a grey, cold, hardscape into a living, inviting, beautiful place. For example, sunflowers attract bees and people alike. Many of the older folks living in cities remember their parents planting food, so can you imagine what watching sunflowers bathing in sunlight does for them?
Agriculture was our culture: we all grew food at one point. We took care of our families and each other. Planting food brings people together; strengthens the community; provides a safe place for kids to play, learn and thrive; and it gives teenagers something fun and productive to do. Gardening gives people purpose and a sense of accomplishment.
The lessons encoded in a garden are too many to list. Children love playing in the dirt. In fact, I still love playing in the dirt. It’s a sad thing and a great concern that many kids know how to operate an I-pad before they can even communicate with words. Many of these kids will never get to see or understand how their food gets on their plates. In my humble opinion, this is the kind of disconnection responsible for many of our emotional and mental imbalances. Caring for a garden is therapeutic and simply delicious!
It wasn’t until we started our garden and farming that my kids truly enjoyed eating kale, flowers, broccoli . . . Pretty much anything that we grow we eat. Gardening should be an important aspect of our children’s education. It’s no less important and valuable than learning how to read and write.
Many don’t know that much of our food has travelled a great distance before reaching the supermarket or restaurant. Urban farming helps people become more resourceful and actually increases their quality of life. You know what they say: “health is wealth.” To me, living in luxury is the ability to feed my family and myself from our garden. That is abundance.
It’s also been years since I bought a carton of eggs. We have eighteen hens, which our children love. We get to
share the surplus with our neighbors and friends. Many U.S. cities permit the raising of chickens, pigs — even goats. It’s amazing how excited people get when they grow food. Why not organize a community garden? It can be such a fun, life changing experience for all involved. You’ll be surprised at how many people of all ages and walks of life are willing and able to join in.
The time is perfect for us to take responsibility and manage our environment creatively. We are faced with a great many environmental problems, which can be overwhelming. Perhaps the answer is to focus on ourselves. Perhaps if we can save ourselves, we can save each other. Perhaps if we alter our environment we can actually live more healthfully and consume less.
The modern day “practical yet disposable” mentality is not sustainable. It’s time to redefine comfort and quality of life. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves “What is it that we really need?” Never underestimate life’s simple pleasures like sitting in a garden watching bees do their thing or watching young children eat cherry tomatoes off the vine. These are things that warm my heart and give me hope for future generations. How we live now will dictate what we’ll experience tomorrow.
Gardens change lives. Plant seeds now and be a part of the miracle.
“Permaculture is revolution disguised as organic gardening”
Graham Burnett from Permaculture – A Beginner’s Guide
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings”
Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution