If you could have a bird’s eye view of Manhattan, you’d probably notice streams of yellow taxis flowing up and down the avenues, crowds of people walking along the streets, countless old and new buildings sandwiched together and of course the bright lights of Times Square. In addition, if you look closely past the intoxicating energy of the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle, you’ll find something else entering your scope of vision — a one acre farm.
Ask and Receive
Eight local students from Millennium High School’s Environmental Club inspired the creation of the Battery Urban Farm when they visited the Battery Conservatory, located in downtown NYC, in November of 2010 and asked if they could grow a vegetable garden in the park. Now, the farm produces approximately 100 types of organic fruits, vegetables, grains and flowers; serves and educates almost 2000 students from 30 schools and organizations; and, has recruited over 600 community volunteers.
The farm organizers’ goals are to “Empower NYC children and the community to make healthier eating choices through garden education; inspire and encourage the creation of edible gardens in communities throughout NYC and globally; and, cultivate a broader awareness of sustainability through responsible waste management and gardening practices” www.thebattery.org/projects/battery-urban-farm.
For example, many of the garden’s produce go to two downtown school cafeterias. Organizers believe “In a world where obesity and other diet-related illnesses run rampant and many children cannot identify common vegetables in their whole, natural state, there is a growing and pressing need for garden education.”
Sowing the Seeds
From the east coast to the west coast, urban gardens are sprouting in local communities.
Ron Finley, Founder of The Ron Finley Project, wants kids “to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples.” During his Keynote presentation titled “Food in the City: Designing a Healthy Food Future” at this year’s South by Southwest Eco Conference www.SXSWECO.com he declared “People have other opportunities than the ones that were designed for them by someone else!”
Describing how he was compelled to start a movement of urban gardening and education in his South Central L.A. food desert community, he advised “We’ve gotten too far away from the food system….we need to take our food system back into our hands; there are over 25 million Americans living in ‘Food Deserts’, which means they lack access to healthy foods (i.e., fresh fruits and vegetables) in their communities…it’s time for Americans to learn to transform food deserts into food forests.” To view the changes he’s inspired around his community, click here www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w.
In addition to his accomplishments thus far and according to his website, Ron is planning to build an urban garden called “HQ” in South Central L.A. “that will serve as an example of a well-balanced, fruit-and-veggie oasis. Inspired by the idea of turning unused space such as parkways and vacant lots into fruitful endeavors, this garden and gathering place will be a community hub, where people learn about nutrition and join together to plant, work and unwind. HQ will create a myriad of jobs for local residents, and this plot of land will be a self-sufficient ecosystem of gardening, education, cooking, business learning and management. The community will get their hands dirty together, shovel together, work together and be healthy together” www.ronfinley.com.
Questioning society’s current priority of investment in technology instead of nutrition, he stated “All technology is useless, unless there are healthy kids eating nutritious food and developing minds/brains that can function well enough to use the technology.” Accordingly, Ron travels around the country to educate students, “Kids need to know the difference between ‘food’ and ‘un-food products’…children are being poisoned with products presented as edible, while containing many chemicals that are unhealthy.” He educates students on the importance of gardening, telling them “Gardening is the gateway….we need to get back to the soil because power is in the soil; we are all nature…we are soil…we are all connected.”
Concluding his presentation, he advised “We have to heal the planet, heal ourselves…we can design our own lives; we are all artists…we are all gardeners.”
Food goes to Waste
When society is faced with the challenge of millions of Americans living in food desert communities, one may wonder how high percentages of food could be treated as disposable.
“Over 40% of food produced in the US goes directly to waste facilities” explained Hana Dansky, during her Keynote presentation titled “The Food We Waste” at the Lifestyles of Heath and Sustainability (LOHAS) 2013 Forum www.lohas.com. To assist in solving this imbalance, her group, Boulder Food Rescue, created a movement to transfer local excess food, which would have been sent to landfills, to people in the community. To view her presentation, click here www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS1Pf5YHjXE.
As a non-profit organization, which started in Boulder, Colorado and has quickly branched out across the U.S., Boulder Food Rescue’s mission is to support in the re-routing of excess food so it can be delivered to organizations that serve the homeless and the hungry. Many volunteers around the country are joining the effort and there are local chapters mushrooming in many cities from New York to California. As outlined on their website, the group is “focused on direct rescue and redistribution of fresh and healthy food that would be discarded otherwise. The flexibility of our model, and the direct ‘just in time’ delivery mechanism, allows us to focus on small gaps left behind by larger food rescue organizations and food banks. We work hard to accomplish our task with minimal environmental impact and right now more than 80% of our food transportation is accomplished via human-powered means (bicycles and trailers)” www.BoulderFoodRescue.org.
Hana advised “What we need to realize, as a society, is that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right.” Successfully designing new paths for excess food, to date, her organization has delivered almost 500,000 pounds of food to people in need.
Written by Professor Shireen Musa,
Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York