Showing posts with label Urban Agriculture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Urban Agriculture. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Future of Suburbia

Both existing and future. Gonna have to start growing yer own food. From NYT which lists it currently as amenity. But, someday it will ratchet up one notch to necessity:

At the 220-home Serenbe project near Atlanta’s airport, the cachet of local produce has been added to retiree-friendly businesses, including galleries, a bed-and-breakfast and three restaurants. Steve Nygren, an Atlanta restaurant impresario, started the project on his 900-acre farm.

The problem is that this is still in "niche market" phase serving a solitary demographic.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Today's Treat: Guest Post

I'm hoping guest posts on a variety of topics that I am incapable of commenting on can become a regular feature of this blog...

With the recent spate of community gardens and the movement away from the English-derived, petty bourgeois need for manicured lawns towards something more useful, I've enlisted a friend and colleague who has started his own garden in the front yard of his young families inner-ring Dallas house:

Take it away Juan Munoz...

What's a Garden Worth?

I originally started my garden as a native, albeit urban prairie. I reintroduced native species without the use of chemicals and pesitcides as an antidote to the manicured, unsustainable water hogging turf lawn decorated with imported flowers that feel more at home in England or some rainy European climate. They won't grow here in Texas without a major helping hand from homo sapiens and some petro-chemical based inputs.

Man cannot defeat nature. It's been around a whole hell of a lot longer than us. So I chose to work with it.

Once that was done and the Laissez-faire method of natural lawn decoration reaped its wild and unexpected rewards, what else was there to do? Answer: Grow my own vegetables. My mom did it. My grandmother did it. I want my kid to do it. I want my kid to learn where food really comes from and to learn skills that too many of have us have lost with advanced technology.

I was sick of bland, commercially grown veggies that had no flavor. They come from who knows where. I can't really afford to eat organic veggies because, frankly, they are too expensive. We had a few scares from salmonella outbreaks in tomatoes, spinach and jalepenos. How in the hell am I going to make salsa without tomatoes? Plus, there is a deep satisfaction of growing something you eat. You can taste the love you put into it.

From the native garden, I moved to a container garden of tomatoes and peppers, and the containers proved to be a little dicey in the heat of Texas summers. The pots dried out to quickly and the yield was low. But what little we got from the containers tasted so damn good I was hooked.

It was time to expand and actually build a raised bed garden where my front lawn stood. Part political statement and part necessity due to the sun orientation of my lot, the front yard was where it was going. (I used the orientation part to convince my wife that the front yard was the only place it could go.) She finally warmed up to it once the Romaine lettuce started sprouting up. She will love it more when the tomatoes ripen.

Since the soil in North Texas is generally clay, the initial cost outlay is more than I imagined, though not exceedingly expensive. Instead of digging into the dirt and planting random veggies, I was forced to build raised beds and amend the soil with compost.

Soil is the key. Healthy soil, healthy happy plants. I make my own compost, but the amount I am able to produce and the amount required to start the beds were not even close. Add in the wood to build the raised beds with the cost of the compost/mulches and seeds and some starter plants, I am at around $250. Next year the costs will be substantially lower since I will be starting from seeds mostly and the soil will improve each year with minimal amounts of homemade compost added to the beds .

The garden is only around 75-80SF(It’s at 50 SF as of today)but it is designed to maximize every square foot of space using the block style method of planting. See link here:

For example, in a 3’x3’ space in the bed, I can yield 144 carrots, 36 onions, or 16 heads of lettuce. Using succession planting, i.e., sowings seeds every two weeks, I should have a steady supply of fresh kitchen veggies until the first frost. The initial 250 dollar outlay is comparable to a week and a half’s worth of groceries for me, the wife, and baby Jack. I think it is money well spent, and it’s cheaper than therapy. We will see where it goes, and how much we really get out of the garden.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This Shit is Bananas...B-A-I hate that effing song.

[As friendly and innocuous as Joe Camel]

Last night, I was watching World's Coastlines From Above on HDNet as recorded on my DVR and I was struck afterwards by how I was overcome by the confluence of beauty of the geography, the coastal cities, and the people caught living their lives on camera from the helicopter. The world we inhabit (as well as the built worlds we've created) seems like Nirvana whilst watching that show. I believe it was Greece and Croatia that I watched last night (This is about when I realized I wanted to retire to a yacht in the Adriatic).

Then, today...I'm brutally brought back to the reality of our times:

World's Banana Supply Succumbing to Disease from HuffPuff via The Independent - "A Parable for our Times"
But how does this relate to the disease now scything through the world's bananas? The evidence suggests even when they peddle something as innocuous as bananas, corporations are structured to do one thing only: maximise their shareholders' profits. As part of a highly regulated mixed economy, that's a good thing, because it helps to generate wealth or churn out ideas. But if the corporations aren't subject to tight regulations, they will do anything to maximise short-term profit. This will lead them to seemingly unhinged behaviour - like destroying the environment on which they depend.
Simply put, without some form of regulation, a corporation will ALWAYS favor quantitative growth over qualitative because it's just too hard. Waaahhh! This is what people mean by the "race to the bottom." That's not a game I care to play.

If you've ever read Gore Vidal, and I've read plenty, you already know all about the Union Fruit company, it's corruption and brutal takeover of South and Central American governments as well as American complicity, which the above linked article recaps. The critical point is that which is in bold (and covered in depth in Thom Hartmann's book Unequal Protection).

Corporations are legally bound to nothing but short-term growth in the form of shareholders' profits. We've allowed them to become so large that they influence, if not directly sanction, any potential government influence that prevents the facility (as in 'Ease of performance' not the building definition) of quick, easy profits; planet and people be damned.

The Corporation (the movie) correctly points out that these entities operate functionally as psycopathic individuals, even though the inviduals within the company are often very compassionate, thoughtful, caring, intelligent people. Why? Because of their company's legal obligations and that the corporate entities are given the rights of people under the law. That's why.

We're at the point where all governments are now Banana Republics. This is THE primary issue of the day that we ALL face. Yes, us too. We're facing giant industrial agri-business stripping the nutrients out of soils in the most fertile lands in the world, the American midwest, as similar to this passage about the bananas:
Not long after Panama Disease first began to kill bananas in the early 20th century, United Fruit's scientists warned the corporation was making two errors. They were building a gigantic monoculture. If every banana is from one homogenous species, a disease entering the chain anywhere on earth will soon spread. The solution? Diversify into a broad range of banana types.
It's about permaculture, crop rotation, nutrient flows not strip mining every and any natural resource...this is how the Chinese farmers have cultivated terraced hillsides for millenia. Quantitative, indiscriminate growth is the ideology of the Cancer cell. The corporation as a legal entity is the cancer. It's time to excise the tumor before it destroys the Earth's capacity to sustain life.