A mounting desire to eat fresh, local produce, coupled with rising food prices in 2008, has inspired millions of Americans to grow some of their own food, many for the first time. The kitchen garden planted by Michelle Obama and a group of fifth graders in March this year – which has already produced more than 225 pounds of produce – has provided a further boost to the interest in urban food gardens that’s sweeping across the country.
Former pro basketball player Will Allen, who is considered to be one of the nation’s leading urban farmers and founder of Growing Power Inc., estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of urban gardens in inner-city areas across America. ‘This has become a multicultural, multigenerational movement, a revolution,’ he said.
In Atlanta, Georgia, produce from the thriving Habesha community garden is helping to feed some of the members of a neighborhood located in an economically depressed area of the city, and the community views it is an empowering revival of old traditions. ‘It’s a reawakening going on. It’s almost like it’s a renaissance,’ said Cashawn Myers, director of HABESHA Inc who believes urban farming is a way for many African-Americans to reconnect with their past.
In New York, the current Botanical Garden’s Edible Garden exhibit presents a Good Food Garden, a Seed Savers Heirloom Vegetable Garden, and a Beginner’s Vegetable Garden, along with a half dozen other edible landscape-related exhibits. Leading American advocates for ‘home grown’ produce, such as Kitchen Gardeners International founder Roger Doiron and Slow Food USA’s president Josh Viertel – who previously founded the Yale Sustainable Food Project which included a on-farm on campus – will be among the featured speakers at events taking place over the course of the summer.
Also in New York, author and edible landscape advocate Fritz Haeg installed a “native Manhattan food garden” in June with help from a team of volunteers to feature the edible plants that fed the Lenape people on Manhattan island 400 years ago. The garden is divided into five zones: woods, berry patch, low wetland, flowering meadow, and a planting of “the three sisters,” beans, corn, and squash.
Slow Food convivia are also active in projects to grow and produce our own food in urban centers around the world, in particular by creating or supporting school gardens. This Sunday July 12, Slow Food Delta Diablo is bringing a less common topic to urban residents in the “Beekeeping on the Urban Fringe” workshop. Participants will learn about the life of the honeybee and its worldwide threat, and find out what beekeepers and farmers on the urban fringe are doing to sustain the lives of bees.