Farming, specifically urban farming, seems to have turned the corner. Once on the fringe, an activity for retired women in straw hats and yippies (yuppie hippies), growing your own vegetables is the new normal. Suddenly everyone seems to be doing it! Urban vegetable gardens are an essential element to revitalizing neighborhoods, educating kids, and lifting an entire population of Americans out of the destructive path of completely curable diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Is this a revolution? An evolution? Or maybe, both.
Food related feature-length documentaries like Katie Couric’s Fed Up and short TED talks continue to burst onto the scene. After years of educating and warning us of the dangers of big agribusiness and the landscape of fast and processed food, the message has changed from fear and outrage to hope and action. Instead of fear mongering, leading to inevitable paralysis, there’s community building and real world solutions happening now, almost everywhere.
LA leads the country in vacant lots owned by the city, a combined total of twenty six square miles. rEVOLUTIONARY Guerilla Gardener Ron Finley gathered an army of volunteer gardeners to plant food forests in these forgotten spaces of South Central to transform the community.
“I have witnessed my garden become a tool for the education, a tool for the transformation of my neighborhood. You’d be surprised how kids are affected by this. Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus you get strawberries.”
We’re all aware of the childhood obesity epidemic, and the occurrence of adult onset Diabetes in children. Teach children to go easy on the refined carbohydrates from the start, Dr. David Ludwig advises — “the sugary beverages, too much fruit juice and all of the processed, packaged snack foods.” Findings from a new study, shared on NPR earlier this year, suggest that what mothers eat during pregnancy and the first few years of a child’s life significantly influence the occurrence of obesity later in life.
Your kids won’t eat kale, you say? Finley has an easy solution. “If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.”
Finley’s not alone. Individuals in urban areas everywhere are eradicating their own food deserts and related diseases by starting community projects like Groundwork Somerville and the Massachusetts Urban Farming Network (MassUFN), both designed to supply hyper-local organic produce to underserved neighborhoods in Somerville, MA, one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. Green City Growers, another Somerville entity, is dedicated to converting unused open spaces into thriving urban farms throughout Greater Boston, with a heavy emphasis on educating kids about how to grow their own.
Finley declares “Food is the problem, and food is the solution.” It’s that simple. This Food Day, October 24th, I encourage you to be part of the food solution in your Massachusetts community. Arm yourself with a shovel and a garden hose. Make this Food Day rEVOLUTIONARY.