victory gardens

We’ve written a lot here about Victory Gardens in the past. I’ve been on a kick for the past year or so, thinking that we needed a coordinated national campaign to popularize the idea that, instead of affixing magnetic yellow ribbons to the back of one’s SUV to demonstrate patriotism, folks should dig up their lawns and plant vegetables. Doing so would not only improve nutrition, and build local community, but it would dramatically reduce the amount of foreign oil used in the shipping and growing of produce. I sketched out a few ideas and even went so far as to shoot some video on the subject. I also reached out to folks like artist/activist Amy Franceschini, who had been doing work around the Victory Garden concept in San Francisco, and our local agricultural activist, Amanda Edmonds, who had been incredibly successful in building community gardens around Ypsi, opening farmers’ markets, and directing the local dialogue on healthy food access.

The idea was that, borrowing from what we were all already doing, we could launch a coordinated campaign here in Michigan in early spring, and then, depending on how well it went, begin rolling it out elsewhere the following year. Always the optimist, I envisioned a day when little cells of people around the country would be building raised-bed vegetable gardens with their neighbors, sharing tips online, and setting up seed cooperatives. I imagined bringing together people across all barriers; rich, poor, black, white, staunch conservatives, long-time environmentalists, agnostics and religious fundamentalists… If you couldn’t build a positive movement around food, I reckoned, it couldn’t be done.

And then…. I did what I do best… I didn’t do a god damned thing.

It’s one of those things that really weighs on my mind. I’ve got notes and video tapes laying on my desk, and every time I look at them, I feel sick to my stomach, like I’d let everyone in the world down. Fortunately, however, Amanda and Amy didn’t stop pushing their own projects forward. Amanda, who wanted to get away from the military connotations of “Victory Garden,” just launched a program called 4 Square. It’s a simple, brilliant idea. She wants people to commit to growing 4’x4′ vegetable gardens outside their homes. (You can read all about it by following that last link.) And, Amy Franceschini has just launched a new Victory Garden campaign in San Francisco… Here’s a clip from an article about the program in the “San Francisco Chronicle“:

San Francisco is looking for roughly 15 households to support a pilot project in the city called Victory Gardens 2008+.

Modeled on the Victory Gardens of World Wars I and II, in which citizens planted food crops as part of the war effort, San Francisco is looking to install 15 food gardens in people’s backyards, front yards, window boxes, rooftops or other unused land. The two-year pilot project is a partnership between the city’s Department of the Environment and the nonprofit Garden for the Environment (an education and demonstration garden in the Sunset District). Participants will have their soil tested and will receive a trellis, two raised beds, plants, seeds and mulch and will work with the Victory Garden team to install a garden. Participants must agree to a multiyear commitment to the program and make their garden available for occasional tours.

This being a San Francisco project, the Victory Gardens 2008+ news release says it will choose 15 households based on the “diversity of income, ethnicity, available space, neighborhood, gardening experience and lifestyle”…

[Speaking of San Francisco, how cool is this idea?]

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about two great initiatives that are taking place, and confess that, much to my embarrassment, I had absolutely nothing to do with either.

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  1. mark
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    If we could get an ad firm to donate some time and energy, I wonder if Ann Arbor’s Fair Food Foundation might be interested in funding a national ad campaign built around the idea. I suspect, at the very least, they’d agree to sit down for a meeting.

  2. bobdurivage
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I would volunteer but I rent. The way food prices are going(and I don’t think they’ll ever come down) it won’t be much longer before this takes off. Say goodbye to Chemlawn, Ortho, and Scott’s and hello to organic, local produce just outside your door.

  3. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    “Peoples backyards … or other unused land”!? I, for one, am deeply offended by the suggestion that my backyard is an unused space.

    Just goes to show how out of touch those San Fran elitists are.

  4. Hillary
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Except the foursquare garden is a very old method of gardening and a specific type of square-foot gardening.

  5. Anisoptera
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Growing Hope has been promoting a 4 x 4 raised beds.

  6. Posted May 19, 2008 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I have just completed a 3.5×8.5 raised bed box and it’s half full of soil…I’m getting there with the wheel barrow.

    I plan on a second identical bed next weekend.

    Finally I get to empty my 5+ year old compost pile.

    Tomatoes, Basil, Peppers, Onions are topping the list of crops. I’m still working on the list of other crops.

  7. Posted May 20, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I don’t have any room left unused in my backyard. OR front yard. So I’ve designated one of my roughly 4′ x 4′ raised containers to the Four Square Society — it’s got heirloom St Valery carrots & Bull’s Blood beets in it. (The main reason I grow heirlooms is for the names!) My daughter, Sian, though, is putting in a Four Square garden on River near the Brewery. She has Black Krim tomatoes & Prudens Purples, herbs like basil, chamomile and parsley, and I can’t remember what else. Link to cool heirlooms: — still not too late to get heirloom transplants…

  8. Robert
    Posted May 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m just about ready to only eat stuff I saw grown with my own eyes.

  9. Brackache
    Posted December 10, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Perhaps a free zine with tips on gardening, urban farming, interviews with Peter Thomason, a list of Growing Hope events/products, a get to know your local farmers feature, updates on the legalities of urban chicken/goats, how to build a bike generator, etc.

    No need to join anything or show up to stuff, just free DIY (not just veggie stuff, also crafty stuff like soap making and candlemaking and whatnot) & community info.

    Also cartoons.

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