I’m glad to find other people who are into art focused on food and gardening in cities. This blog isn’t very big yet, but it will grow, I mean doesn’t everyone want to look at cool art with good food their belly?
Good Farm Movement is the art of the urban agrarian. we are a visual art blog that showcases and celebrates the agrarian avant-garde—the forward thinking farmers, cooks, eaters, educators, activists, and artists reclaiming our land, our communities, and our health.
we believe thought provoking visual art is a powerful means for examining the relationship between people and food in society. therefore, we draw on the visually dynamic mediums of design, photography, film/video, painting, and drawing as wellsprings of education and inspiration.
our ambition is to grow an informal collective of contributors who shift and shape the visual commentary regarding the political, economic, cultural, and social issues of food and farming. every contribution is open for commenting, and hopefully will produce critical thought and meaningful dialogue on and away from the site.
FoodShare is an organization that take a broad look at the entire food system – how food is produced, distributed and consumed.
How people get their food is also important. Food distribution systems that involve communities and help to create neighborhood leaders have a great potential to enhance individual and community empowerment, by leading people to feel that they have some control over this very basic part of their lives. Again, because of its material, cultural and social importance, food is special in its power to mobilize people to action. All our programs are based on this community building principle.
FoodShare tries to take a multifaceted, innovative and long-term approach to hunger and food issues. This means that we’re involved in diverse actions: grassroots program delivery, advocacy for social assistance reform, job creation and training, nutrition education, farmland preservation and campaigns for comprehensive food labelling are just a few examples of the areas we work in.
FoodShare was started in 1985 by the Mayor of Toronto and many citizens concerned about the growing hunger issues of the city. Since then, they have been actively involved in tons of projects all over the city, it is part of the school system, the farmers markets, and food banks of the city as well as host a hunger hotline, cooking classes, gardens and garden education, and healthy food choices classes.
The Field to Table Urban Agriculture Project, founded by Annex Organics, has been home to a sprouting business, a rooftop greenhouse and garden, living machines, and a composting system. It now also includes honey bee hives and, off site, the Sunshine Garden, a 6000 sq ft market garden. Click here for a flier about the Sunshine Garden.
They also have a program called Good Food Boxes started in 1994, which runs similarly to a large buying club. The project distributes boxes of fresh (and often local) food throughout the city for either $12 or $32 depending of the version they choose.
Professional evaluation of The Good Food Box shows that participating in the program helps people access a more nutritious diet. It is now thought that up to 70% of deaths result from diseases that have a diet-related dimension, and there is mounting evidence that eating enough fruit and vegetables is key to preventing disease. Not only is it a matter of justice that everyone should have access to the food they need to keep them healthy- it also makes sense because of the enormous costs to the health care system that result from treating these diseases.
The Good Food Box makes top-quality, fresh food available in a way that does not stigmatize people, fosters community development and promotes healthy eating.
The Salad Bar program is a Farm to School program aimed at getting fresh vegetables to school children in Toronto. Modeled after salad bar programs from the US, this program aims to get kids excited about fresh, local food. Click here to see what kids said about the Salad Bar at their school.
At the beginning of World War II, victory gardens began to emerge again. Some of these gardens had started as depression relief gardens, others were gardens from the first world war. There were also many were new gardens, carved out of vacant lots, back yards, and city parks. The War Food Administration created a National Victory Garden Program, which set five maine goals.
1.lessen demand on commercial vegetable supplies and thus make more available to the Armed Forces and lend-lease programs.
2.reduce demand on strategic materials used in food processing and canning
3.ease the burden on railroads transporting war munitions by releasing produce carriers
4.maintain the vitality and morale of Americans on the home front through the production of nutritious vegetables outdoors
5.preserve fruit and vegetables for future use when shortages might become worse (Bassett 1981)
Some victory gardeners proudly distplaying their vegetables. 1942 or 1943.
Library of Congress Digital Photography Collection.
Gardens began, once again, to change in the eyes of Americans, just as they had in the first world war. They were no longer just for the poor, or for those who could not feed themselves, but for everyone. Gardening became popular not only for food security, but for it mental and physical health benefits and its benefits to the community. Gardens gave a feel of productivity that citizens on the home-front needed. A garden plot feels much more useful, productive, and important than a vacant lot or lawn. With loved one off at war, it greatly improved morale to have an outlet for the patriotism, fear, and anxiety that many Americans felt about the war. In 1942, about 5.5 million gardeners participated in the war garden effort, making seed package sales rise 300%. The USDA estimated over 20 million garden plots were planted with an estimated 9-10 million pounds of fruit and vegetables grown a year, 44 percent of the fresh vegetables in the United States. (Bassett 1981) In 1943, American families bought 315,000 pressure cookers for canning vegetables up from 66,000 in 1942 (Wessels).
Jeffersontown, Kentucky. The Jefferson County ommunity cannery, started by the WPA (Work Projects Administration). Canning beans and greens raised in a victory garden. It costs three cents each for cans and two cents per can for use of the pressure cooker. June 1943.
During the war years, Americans discovered and benefited from gardening’s many advantages. It was stylish to garden. This didn’t last long, however. Once the war ended, there was an overall decline in interest in gardening as life returned to normal in the US and the baby boomer era began. Many victory gardens were grown on loaned property, which needed to be returned in peacetime.
But urban gardens were not gone…..
Poster circulated by the New York City Work Projects Administration, between 1941 and 1943. Artist: Herbert Bayer
J. H. Burdet, National Garden Bureau. 1939-1945.
This is a garden built out of a bomb crater in London, 1943
Victory gardening on the Charles Schwab estate. New York, New York. June 1944.
May 1943, New York, New York. Children of the New York City Children’s Aid Society work on their victory gardens at the West Side Center.
Victory gardening at Forest Hills, Queens. New York, New York. June 1944.
Washington, D.C. A resident of the Southwest section and her Victory garden. June 1943.
Washington, D.C. Vice President Henry A. Wallace in his victory garden. Aug. 1942.
So, wait… food… I can grow it in my yard? That’s like a lot of work right? But you know what? It helps the war effort.
“To save gasoline, they use a horse and plow and humble farm implements. It is anything but organic. We see every kind of pest, worm and disease that can affect the garden. Rick sprays various noxious looking chemicals on the vegetables without wearing a face mask or gloves.
“A victory garden is like a share in an airplane factory, the film opening tells us. It is also a vitamin factory that will keep Americans strong. The film ends on a patriotic note, ‘No Work, No Victory!’ Bear that in mind all you Victory Gardeners and Work! For Victory! A no-nonsense, non-idealized look at what it is like to have to really grow your own food.”
Stock Footage: MOT 1943\: COMMUNITY VICTORY GARDEN\: WS People preparing soil for planting in empty lot of rural neighborhood turning soil w/ hoes. Young adult women tilling soil. WWII 49309081_043
Stock Footage: MOT 1943\: DRAMATIZATION\: PERSONAL VICTORY GARDEN\: * EXT Seed store. Man walking into store CU War Gardens poster man buying seeds hoe saying only way to get what you want to eat grow it yourself. CU Seed packets on counter. Food shortage WWII 49309081_042
1942 Barney Bear’s Victory Garden
Similar Garden Projects
PASADENA, CA – As localization becomes increasingly popular due to the continued rise in gas prices and with the cost of living skyrocketing in the southland, Reginald Miller shows us one mans way of saving money by bringing back an alternate method of putting food on the table the old fashioned way.
Fritz Haeg. artist, architect, gardener, superhero.
Today for $29.95 you can can join the 3.5 million families and businesses getting everlasting happiness from their Trugreen lawns. Every month a man will come to your house and spray a delightful mixture of toxins and fertilizers to kill anything that might live in your lawn and green the stuff thats too dumb to die. (Incidently at the bottom of the Trugreen website a little blurb reads, “TruGreen ChemLawn is now TruGreen, because one word is all you need for a great lawn. We have shortened our name to make it easier for you to remember that we are the experts of lawn care. While we are known as “TruGreen”, the name ChemLawn will always be a part of our Company.” trugreen.com)
Sheep on the White House lawn during Woodrow Wilson’s Administration
The American lawn has been an institution in suburbia since suburbia began. Historians believe that this preocupation with low growning, uniform turf grass stems from 17th century Europe, when the ruling royals flaunted their wealth by surrounding themselves with lawns “Lawns did a great job of showing off castles and manor homes. They also let the neighbors know that the lawn owner was so wealthy that he could afford to use the land as a playground, rather than a source of food. Thus, the lawn became a status symbol.” (Donaldson). They are the sign of wealth, materialism, order, and perfection that America thrives on. When the push mower came on the scene in 1870, suddenly almost any property owner who wanted to could have a lawn. So the lawn became a symbol of the American dream, the land of wealth and prosperity, where anyone can have a lawn not used for practical purposes. The USDA and Garden Clubs of America pushed the lawn by holding best-kept lawn contests and writing about the desire to conform and achieve status through a beautiful lawn. The land of wealth and prosperity became the land of excess, wastefulness and materialism. When chemical pesticides and fertilizers came onto the market after World War II, lawns got artificially greener and began to pollute landscapes everywhere. Fertilizer run-off created problems in all waterways and disrupted the balance of ecosystems. For a long time is was thought that agriculture was the main source of pollution to waterways. Only recently did scientists realize the extent to which individually fertilized lawns affected the ecosystem.
Haeg has been traveling around the country on a crusade against the American lawn in his project, Edible Estates. Instead of these scary unproductive barren patches that we all insist on keeping in front of our homes, Haeg creates beautiful organic edible landscapes that will liven up the whole neighborhood and hopefully make your neighbors jealous. When I think of the words “edible landscape”, an a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory image appears in my head of carefully sculpted unicorn topiaries made out of strawberry plants or at least a giant bush shaped like a yorky terrier similar to the one outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
As far as I know, Haeg has never made an edible landscape of that sort. His are beautiful, productive, well organized, and lasting. Unlike Trulawn, they invite creatures of all sorts into the front yard, don’t dump toxic chemicals into local waterways, and produce lots of good things to eat. “Haeg is taking over one domestic front lawn at a time… in an attempt to completely overthrow the American institution of front lawns by creating a living exhibit that reflects his personal concerns about our environment and the effort that needs to go into protecting it (Thornton).”
Edible Estate #3 in Maplewood, New Jersey (Photo by Fritz Haeg)
“I’m interested in what happens when a garden is placed in a location where it becomes a threat to the industrial/commercial system that we are embedded in.” Said Fritzy in an interview with Creative Time, “For some neighborhoods, it is a very provocative gesture that is upsetting. I think that a society that cannot grow it’s own food or that is threatened by a garden is in deep trouble. Most American homes will hide their kitchen garden in the backyard, if they have one at all. This project gets them out in front, a display created in an attempt to demonstrate the aesthetically pleasing aspects of pratical gardening. And it works. Haeg’s gardens do just what they set out to do, and sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t have a million screaming fans following him everywhere.
Stan and Priti Cox stand in front of their suburban home with Edible Estate #1 in Salina, Kansas.
To represent America as a whole, Haeg decided he wanted to build gardens evenly all over the country. He started in pretty much the geographic center on the country: The first edible estate was built in Salina, Kansas in 2005. Since then five other gardens have been built in Lakewood, California (Southwest); Maplewood, New Jersey (Northeast); London, England; Austin, Texas (South); and Baltimore, Maryland (East) respectively. There is also a demonstration garden in Descanso, California. Not only does Fritz Haeg build and advertise the edible estates that he designs and creates, but he also encourages others to do the same. His website has an entire section titled “how to make you own” with plans, costs, advise, and references.In a way, the edible estates Fritz has created are advertisements for vegetable gardening in suburbia. “Haeg calls his Estates “franchise projects” because they can be applied anywhere. They’re the product of a sort of global localism that draws its meaning from the indigenous.” (Metropolis)
Haeg came to Baltimore to plant an edible landscape for The Contemporary Museum’s exhibit Cottage Industry. Many home owners applied for the privilege of having an awesome garden planted in their front yard by a group of eager volunteers from all around the area. To know about the selection process listen to the radio article by Maryland Morning below. So an apparently awesome couple, Clarence and Rudine, were chosen to have Edible Estate #6 planted the front yard of their suburban house and The Contemporary Museum paid for everything. On Thursday, Fritz gave a talk at the museum about the Edible Estates project.
Clarence and Rudine, happy caretakers of Edible Estate #6 in Baltimore
Then on saturday, a whole hoard of volunteers showed up to help and they got the entire garden finished in one day. I found out that the project was happening on saturday afternoon as the last veggies were planted. My bad luck. But I did get a nice email saying I could come check out the garden anytime… Well, at least it saved me the embarrassment of screaming and running around after Fritz Haeg, or fainting on the spot, or being otherwise unable to control myself in his presence…
The happy Baltimore volunteers minus a certain student of urban agriculture who should have been there. (April 11, 2008)
An addition to the wonderfully successful Edible Estates projects, Fritz Haeg has other programs. In 2001, Haeg created the GardenLab on-campus community garden program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to get art and architecture students and faculty more in touch with their environmental surroundings. “Faculty, students and staff were encouraged to claim one of 30 designated plots within the school’s 175 wooded acres and use it as “a laboratory for messy experimentation and observation of natural cycles.” (Morgan) Haeg’s new Animal Estates project connects city-dwellers with wildlife. There is currently an Animal Estate exhibit at the Whitney Museum, in New York City. He just published about book about Edible Estates from Metropolis Books. A native Minnesotan, graduated from Carnegie Melon in 1992 with a Bachelors of Arts in Architecture and now lives in Los Angeles.
Haeg says, “I like the idea that my projects are better known than I am. More people probably know what the Edible Es-tates project is than who I am, which inverts what’s more common today, where you can know someone really well but have no idea what they’ve ever done.” In an era that loves to make stars, “artists are going to want to circumvent that and posit alternative ways of making art or being creative—for example, does art always have to be solitary?” (Metropolis)
I could talk for days about the causes and effects of rising food prices in the US.
Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York
Its becoming a BIG DEAL.
In the past year 1.3 million new participants (many of them families) have signed up for food stamps in a effort to be able to access essential food stuffs and food stamp programs are projected to reach record-high levels this year. Food banks have experienced a rise of 20 percent in visits than last year. Food prices have risen 5.5% in just six months.
These are just a few facts… type “food prices” into Google and you’ll get 56,800,000 hits, most of them about rising food costs around the world and the social unrest that is coming with it.
There are many reasons for these price increases. According to America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization, federal commodity support for emergency feeding organizations has dropped nearly $200 million per year since the enactment of 2002 Farm Bill because of a decline in need for the federal government to buy surplus food to support farmers. Additionally, food price inflation has caused rapid erosion in the purchasing power of food stamp benefits.
Kids get afternoon snacks at a Kids Cafe in Cincinnati, OH (uh, looks like someone took that kid on the right’s jello cup)
Kids Cafe is a program started by America’s Second Harvest to try to ensure that children of low-income families get the nutrition they need
“The amount of food stamps per household hasn’t gone up with the food costs,” says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. “Our clients are finding they aren’t able to purchase food like they used to.” (USA 2008: The Great Depression, The Independent)
American Food Stamps
DC is certainly not exempt for experiencing serious hunger issues. According to Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), a Washington DC food security organization that supports and distributes food to food banks throughout the metro area, nearly 1/3 of DC residents live below the poverty level. ONE THIRD! Thats huge! 60% of households surveyed by CAFB reported at least 1 adult member who was unemployed. In the metro area:
One-third of Capital Area Food Bank clients reported having to choose between buying food and paying for utilities at least once during the previous 12 months. (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Hunger in America, 2001).
Over one third reported having to choose between buying food and paying rent or mortgage. (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Hunger in America, 2001)
Nearly one third had to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care. (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Hunger in America, 2001)
109,000 D.C. residents are eligible to participate in the Food Stamp Program each month, however only two-thirds actually receive them; and of those who do, 74 percent report that they do not last the entire month. (USDA and 2001 Hunger Study-Mathematica Policy Research)
Total number of families making less than $35,000 per year is 43,084 (representing 38.3% of all working families)
The average monthly Food Stamp Program benefit is $91.83.
Nearly 50 percent of the households served report at least one working adult in the household. (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. 2006).
No one should have to choose between paying rent or a mortgage or for medical care and buying food.
What is the government doing in response to this food crisis?
In talking with a representative from CAFB the I found that the DC government does not support their efforts, their funding comes from grants, private donors, and fundraisers. The government currently deals with hunger problems in a few ways:
Food Stamp Program,
Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
free and reduced price school breakfast and lunches.
Though these programs are certainly a step in the right direction, many of the programs are under-utilized by those who need them due to lack of awareness, insufficient time to apply for the needed assistance, and the confusing application process that these programs have. Organizations like Capital Area Food Bank try to help people find and understand these resources along with administering their other very accomplished programs.
What does the farm bill have to do with all of this?
A March 29, article in the Economist sums it up pretty well:
The current [Farm Bill] policy is shameless. Farmers of a few select crops such as wheat or maize can avoid almost all risk using the government’s overlapping system of subsidised insurance, loans and payments. The recipients are hardly the most deserving: farm households make a third more than others, and the richest of them, which get most of the subsidies, bring in three times what the average non-farm household does. Instead of saving the family farm, the policy is destroying it, encouraging agricultural land consolidation and raising barriers to entry. And then there are the deleterious effects America’s price-distorting payments have on foreign farmers and so on trade negotiations.
Well, the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:H.R.2419:) is a $288 billion, five-year farm subsidy bill being considered by Congress as a continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill. President Bush, idiotically forgetting that we have to eat, threatened to veto the bill because of its high costs. Many, many organizations pushed for more sustainable farming and renewable energy initiatives and subsidies. Current reforms include:
A modest increase in support for family farmers
Schools will now be allowed to use geographic preference to buy local food with federally-funded Child Nutrition programs
A new loan program will support local processing and distribution to support the Farm to School and Farm to Institution markets.
Hmmm. I’m not sure what to say….
Horribly, the bill cut all mandatory funding for the Community Food Projects Program and Organic Transition – two critical programs that support a transition to organic and local food systems. No more automatic funding means that organizations will have to put a huge amount of effort into fighting for funding every year. Fights continue between Democrats and Republicans about the Farm Bill up into this month (April), but will have to end by April 18, at which point current policies will be extended for a whole nother year, something we cannot see happen. (Community Alliance For Family Farmers)
According to Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest in an April 4 press release,“Hungry Americans can not wait any longer [for changes in the Farm Bill]. We are seeing absolutely tragic increases nationwide in the number of men, women and children in need of emergency food assistance, many for the first time ever….Food stamp enrollment is projected to reach record high levels, during the coming year. This rapid rise in food stamp participation is being fueled by the worsening economic downturn. Low-income families are desperately in need of a new Farm Bill to make improvements in the programs that help ensure that they can put food on their tables and lead productive, healthy lives in this nation so richly blessed with food resources.”
“A one year extension to the Farm Bill would be catastrophic for food banks and those they serve,” said Escarra. “The charitable sector does not have the capacity to meet dramatically increasing requests for food assistance. It is critical for Congress to show leadership by passing a Farm Bill, and for the President to show compassion by signing it. If that happens, none of those in our great nation who face hunger daily will have to wait longer for relief.”(Hungry Americans Cannot Wait For A Farm Bill, March 19, 2008)
In the Video, Dan Imhoff, Author of Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to a Food and Farm Bill, talks about the Farm Bill on a Food News for Cooking Up a Story.
This is just part 1 of 5. To see the rest, go to theCooking Up A Story site (where you can also find some other amazing videos about food systems).
and here’s part 5 of the same series.
Want to learn more about the Farm Bill? Well, there’s a billion sources but here’s some of my favorites:
I visit the CIty Farmer website, an information mecca for urban agriculture, every few days, to drool over awesome urban gardening projects, look at photos, videos, articles, and forums, learn facts about urban agriculture from all over the world, and wish that I could move to Vancouver.
So what is City Farmer? according to them….
“Shoemakers, fashion models, computer geeks, politicians, lawyers, teachers, chefs … all city dwellers … all can grow food at home after work in back yards, community gardens or on flat roofs. For the past 30 years, City Farmer has encouraged urban dwellers to pull up a patch of lawn and plant some vegetables, kitchen herbs and fruit. Our message is the same today as it was in 1978 and will be relevant far into the future. This website is a collection of stories about our work at City Farmer here in Vancouver, Canada, and about urban farmers from around the world. The site is maintained by City Farmer executive director, Michael Levenston.”
and so, so much more. It sort of feels like entering one of those old bookstores that been around forever and everyone trusts to have the best opinions and know the newest and latest books… I still find new stuff everytime I go there. This website sparked my interest in urban agriculture and taught me much of what I know. I’m just waiting until the time when I can go to Vancouver and see these amazing urban agriculture fiends in person.
Interested or have more questions? I’ve been in contact with Michael Levenston before and he’s super nice and will get back to you.