If you have "no place to go," come here!

Guerrilla Gardeners Gone Galt, or, "Beyond Food Production Thunderdome"

chicago dyke's picture

So it's true: I'm a troll. The worst kind, too: condescending, pedantic, annoying, concerned. I guess we all have our failings, and these are mine. But so long as I'm going to be a purist, I have to rant like one. I like eating and I bet most people do too, that's my "motivation" here.

Hoss asks why urban (commercial) [not/for profit] {large scale/vertical} non-residential gardening is worthwhile. I was a good grrl, I didn't lose my cookies, immediately. But it's Saturday and I'm relaxed and silly, so this comment made me have a Sad:

Can the food scraps, etc. from kitchen garbage disposals be used for compost? I'm asking because our Billionaire Mayor wanted to tax plastic grocery bags, until somebody made it clear to him that a lot of people use them for their wet garbage. We don't have disposals here in the city, although they're legal. Wouldn't it make sense for the city to encourage their use?_Brooklyn Girl, shady dame

Now, don't get me wrong- I adore BG and I guess I just had a massive FAIL expressing my point, cause now she hates me. But leaving aside my enduring unpopularity in the blogosphere, I guess I really did want to talk about how shitty (heh) it is that lots and lots of urban (and rural, for that matter) Americans are so utterly disconnected with "the land."

I guess I can't understand why Hoss would even put up a post like this, even as I think I do. Again, I am not trying to be a concern troll, so much as wonder about the state of affairs in which people can be very excited and active in policy debates about things like energy or economics, but not food. Let's forget about the beauty and joy found in growing cultivars for the moment. As I said in an early comment, "That really can happen here." I am distressed and annoyed by the way in which too many Americans seem to think that affordable, nutritious food will always magically appear in well-stocked grocery stores within walking distance, forever. Newsflash: there's no guarantee that will go on, and lots of indicators that it won't, soon.

I think most progressives understand this, even if they don't always articulate it well. But let me put it bluntly, in two different styles. If I were a Amurka-hating terrorist, I'd immediately do two things. First off, I'd get a backhoe and use GPS to find one of the several totally exposed backbones that make up the physical reality of the intertubes, and short circuit things. Secondly, I'd poison some common food, and set off a food scare that would cripple the nation. It wouldn't be hard. Or, in policy lingo: what I want is for food to be taken seriously, in "national security" terms. Give me one reason why a stable food supply isn't an essential component of being "nationally secure" or whatever.

Smarter people than me sum it up for me:

Advantages of Vertical Farming
Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
VF creates new employment opportunities
We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on
VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical
LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.
VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water
and land for agriculture

Like I quipped to Hoss, this kind of info is only a google search away, and should cause every progressive to have a verdant orgasm, as policy goals. Seriously, what's not to like?

Keeping it Real, I guess I have to say that I am totally aware of the fact that in addition to being condescending and pedantic, I'm also given to magical thinking and dystopian fantasy. Fine, that's all true. But let me put it this way: there are and will be even more, billions of mostly idle poor people in countless urban megaslums all over the world. They need to eat, and something to do. There's also all this decaying real estate, we're all fans of Feral Detroit around here and various 3rd world ghettos make that look like a paradise. Specifically addressing the American economy, what it is it that progressives expect urban poor people to do in the coming decades? Work at corporate jobs? Don't make me laugh. Nobody wants them to have no other choice than the military, right? So let's accept that urban agriculture is a totally progressive idea, a good one, with practically endless benefits.

What really annoys me is that there is a narrative out there, dominant among Villagers, that says what I just wrote is "crazy talk." If I weren't so lazy I'd sit here and catalogue a forty page blog post of scientific, mathematical, environmental, sociological, and even moral/religious justifications for what people like me propose. It would be Glennzilla-epic in scope. But for some reason, there are people out there who think that a dedicated commitment to urban growing is unrealistic, impossible policy. All I'm saying is that history, as well as common sense, strongly suggest that such is untrue. Who wants to talk about Cuba, and what they did when they got cut off from the petro/ideo/soviet/global/green "revolution" food stream? Average loss of weight was around ~20lb per Cuban, those first few years, iirc.

Urban cultivation makes sense on many levels. Why is this hard to understand? I suck, but leaving that aside, urban agriculture does not.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

.... that at least in the blogosphere, I'm am so ahead of you in the unpopularity stakes. I'm not going to say that I've lapped you several times, you understand, I'm just saying.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled gardening program!

UPDATE Heh. Truer words.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Now, if only I knew how to vertically garden because I have recently acquired a house with a very small, urban yard and I want to start growing things in part of it next year. I'm hoping I'll be able to eventually get more than a few tomatoes and a head of lettuce. But I'm from the midwest where land was never an issue as a kid (I've never had time to garden as an adult, finally do and now have an itty, bitty backyard, mostly a brick patio.

Submitted by hipparchia on

urban [and rural] agriculture in cuba [probably everybody who's anybody has read this already, but i like to keep linking to it anyway]

food rationing in cuba [i hadn't realized this until just, and it suggests we'll need govt subsidies to help pay for urban agriculture, an idea i'd fully support]

cuba comes to maine [for lambert]

you have to do a bit of arithmetic, but it turns out that cuba has about twice the number of people of people per square km of arable land that the us does and they're not dying of starvation, so they're doing something right.

as for vertical farming, i'm not going to get sidetracked reading anything on it [or anything else that's more interesting than what i need to be doing] right at the moment, but are proponents addressing the issue of trace minerals? these are vitally important in nutrition, and they come mostly from soil; plain old hydroponics ain't going to cut it. the oceans are also a good source of minerals, which is why fish and seaweed and other seafood have been popular through the ages both as food and as fertilizer.

pedanticize to your heart's content, i say.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

why anyone would want to garden. And people with enough money to shop at Whole Foods all the time don't think they ever will have to garden for food, so, why should they care? If you haven't done it, you can't really understand the joys, and if you haven't ever had to, nor think you ever will, you won't understand the need. I come from a long line of farmers and victory gardeners (my first word was "flower") and there isn't life without gardening for me.... but then I'm lucky that way.

I often go to southern BC (closer than most of the US to me) and they are garden-mad in a lovely way, with fruit and vegetable stands almost at every gate, very impressive, like it's a civic duty as well as fun and good eating.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

but it's true, not as much as you, Lambert. i haven't been trying enough.

hipp: that vertical farming link is teh shit. check it out when you have time. i love pretty pictures, it has lots.

now if someone would just come up with a plan to turn banksters into compost, we'd be truly Golden.

Submitted by lambert on

They're already sacks of shit...

* * *

We're really going to have to invent some sort of "dozens" game on this, CD.

________ is so unpopoular that _________ .

And I always w-a-a-a-a-nted to be popular! [sniff]

Submitted by hipparchia on

of good things about vertical farming. i've got some time now to read stuff, but can't get to it. argh!

Submitted by hipparchia on

cool photo on that page

Submitted by hipparchia on

cool photo on that page

so cool, i had to thank you twice!

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

Thanks, CD, that link is very interesting. Like, why is that (vertical farming/urban growing) even controversial? It seems pretty sensible to me.

And, meanwhile, you and lambert are vying in the unpopularity sweepstakes and I kind of like both of you so I'm wondering, really, what that says about me?

(I never wanted to be with the kewl kidz, anyway.)

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

lb and i enjoy that kind of humor, that's all. actually, i think people who don't like and read and respect writers like lb are, well, pretty stupid and lame. not all of the time, lb and i don't always agree and i'd be lying if i didn't say that sometimes i think his approach to blogging/policy advocacy is bullheaded. still, given a choice i would rather read what he has to say here than most places. also, i like argumentation and name calling. ymmv. ;-)

Submitted by lambert on

And somebody's got to be bull-headed, and it seems that pleasant duty was fallen to me.

A-and as for name calling, what the Fuck to you mean? I'd prefer.... "accurate characterization"....

And but so if everybody agreed all the time, how dull life would be!

xoxo ...

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

"Stupid and lame"? Yeah, I agree with that.

"Bullheaded"? Haha, I haven't found that (yet).

I like argumentation and name calling myself. I hate "civility," even though I might be most of the time (completely unintentional, if you must know). I think stupid ideas—which seem like the vast majority of them nowadays—deserve relentless mocking, derisiveness, ridicule. Nothing delights me more than a good paraprosdokian, but that's true of most people I suppose.

So MMIVTM (my mileage isn't varying too much).

Submitted by lambert on

Eesh. So that's what I've been doing. Now I'm going to be conscious of it and lose my touch! Anyhow, I went to go find an Emp Phillips YouTube and got this error:

500 Internal Server Error

Sorry, something went wrong.

A team of highly trained monkeys has been dispatched to deal with this situation.
Also, please include the following information in your error report:


UPDATE Here we go. As above, so below:

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

Oh, have you? Hadn't noticed, sorry…now where were we?