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Urban Farming: Food Security Plus Fun

March 28th, 2009 by Alison · 4 Comments · food & drink, home & garden, sustainability

Ah, Saturday morning. I’m writing and drinking coffee at GiGi Bar on SE 60th and Division here in Portland. My husband Thor and I have been happily watching a little strawberry-blonde tyke who flirtatiously holds fistfuls of blueberry scone out toward us, then scampers away. Her father looks on fondly. Kids are great fun while also being high-maintenance and effortful . . . . . which would be true of most living things, whether plant, animal or human.

One of my top goals for this spring and summer is to grow a higher percentage of our own food. Growing food locally and without fossil-fuel inputs means lots of hands-on work, and Evan, our live-in gardener scheduled to move in April 1, is excited to get his hands dirty with me doing that. (Thor’s specialty is cooking and doing the grocery shopping for everything we can’t grow.)

hazelnut treeWe’ve already transplanted one of our two little hazelnut trees into a more spacious location (photo to left is a hazelnut). We also have plenty of fruits and vegetables in, but I see any protein food we can grow, like nuts and eggs, as a top priority, which is the reason I want to get three chicks that will become laying hens. Thor is not crazy about this idea, but I like animals and am pretty good with them. Moreover, my friend Hanmi Meyer who has three hens is my supportive consultant.

Why go to all the trouble that urban farming entails? Despite being on the price-rise, food is still only about 11% of a household budget, so you save relatively little money by growing your own food. For one thing, it is deeply rewarding, i.e. fun, to nurture, tend and grow something into its fullest possible state.

But I see a much bigger picture here, and the short name for it is food security. I am no alarmist, yet there is every reason to think that we’ll eventually have disruptions in our oil and/or food supply (the former would also lead immediately to the latter, as Cuba experienced 20 years ago). Wherever we live, we need to know how to grow food, and the skills involved don’t just blossom overnight. They take time to develop.

The passionate responses I get whenever I run my ad for a live-in vegetable gardener confirms my belief that I am not alone in having what I call an instinctual inner farmer. The instinct to grow food evolved naturally in humans for the tens of thousands of years we have been growing food to survive. I’m committed to following my ancestors in this life-giving tradition by practicing what is now urban (rather than rural) farming. Call me an intensely practical romantic. . . . having fun getting my hands dirty, growing food.

photo courtesy of sean dreilinger

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Deb

    Food Security! We are SO on the same page here, Alison. I’ve given this a lot of thought.

    My friend is a civil engineer and he’s busy planning transit and connectivity systems of cities across the U.S. as well as in other countries. Food security is an issue that is on a lot of minds these days.

    Stores only carry approximately 3 days worth of food, virtually all of which is dependent on oil to get there. Virtually ALL of our supplies - food, pet food, medicine, even fuel itself, are dependent on oil. If our oil supply were seriously disrupted, there would be shortages and chaos in no time. Terrifying thought, no?

    I fully advocate not just growing some of your own food, but storing some dry goods as well. Be prepared! Have spare food on hand, spare pet food if you have pets, an extra month’s worth of medicine, and especially important - a back up method for purifying water that does not involve heating it.

    I don’t like to be alarmist either. I prefer to think of this as realistic disaster preparedness. I don’t like thinking about it, but for me, it’s just not optional.

    Part of the reason we purchased a tiny home on nearly 4 acres is to pursue greater food independence. I plan to have over a half acre of veggie garden, plus a nice berry patch, fruit & nut trees, and some laying hens. I aim to can & preserve more, plus donate fresh produce to the local food bank. I’ve even given thought to bee keeping, though that’s a significant undertaking!

    Good luck on your pursuit, I’m very interested and will be checking in! So glad you found a new housemate.

  • Crafty green poet

    Yes there are so many reasons for growing your own food. We have a project going on in Edinburgh to get at least part of the communal backgardens into food production, which brings about huge challenges, not least who owns part of the backgreens, but also a distressing lack of sunlight due to the gardens being surrounded by high tenements.

  • Crafty green poet

    but we did grow potatoes last year and hope to grow carrots this year, then there is a communal veg patch with beans and fruit bushes

  • Kathie

    We are growing a good portion of our food and canning, dehydrating and freezing everything we grow.
    We buy our wheat, corn and other items in bulk and repackage. Saves a lot of money. We are going to try a patch of wheat this year and see how we do. We grind our own wheat and bake our own bread” also a big money saver. Chickens are fun but don’t pay for themselves if you have to buy food. But, if you have a garden, you can feed them along with yourself!

    Is anyone aware of the threat that Monsanto is going to try to do away with all non-hybrid seeds? Check it out on the web. Evidently the company has sued farmers for saving seed and has been victorious. We are seed savers and encourage everyone to do the same. Keep the heirloom seeds from extinction!

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