Here's my final segment on the Temple U. Food Assessment Report. Thanks for bearing with me.
One thing that bothered me was that much of the report dealt with providing food for our low income families yet when it came to urban agriculture and edible landscaping, most of the Temple recommendations would cost money our low income families don't have. A community garden plot takes an investment not only in plants or seeds, but in soil amendments like peat moss, top soil and fertilizer, landscaping cloth to fight weeds, fencing (or other ways to discourage pests), and unless you start a garden within walking distance, a car and gas to get to your plot.
Edible landscaping? I love the idea of planting berry bushes, herbs, and edible perennials like asparagus not only in a back yard veggie garden, but as functional edible gardens surrounding our homes. But most of our households can't afford to hire a landscaper or buy things like gooseberry bushes, let alone have the knowledge to maintain such plants.
What we need is some kind of grant program to train homeowners in edible landscaping or urban farming and help families buy the materials to get started. Yet one thing I thought evident in the Temple report is that the people who put it together didn't seem to think any special knowledge, training, or much funding was necessary to set up gardens of any kind.
Next, are we going to give up public athletic fields, playgrounds, and
other active recreational space? Not likely. They mark Eisenhower and
Stewart's school athletic fields as temporary open space that could be
used for gardens. Property close to open schools should NEVER be used as
community gardens for security reasons. School gardens, fine, but we
shouldn't be encouraging non-school personnel to hang around school
Then there's the definite errors, such as them marking
St. Francis's front lawn. Still even if you eliminate all those spots
marked in error or that can't be converted, a lot of what you're left
with is too steep for annual planting (they obviously did most of this
with a flat map and never went out to look at the sites), or too prone
to flooding, like the whole Saw Mill Run area--the reason Hancock School
had to abandon their garden. Or paved over, which would be too cost
prohibitive to make into a garden.
I'm not saying there are no
spaces that could be converted--Roosevelt Field could, for instance. Just that a
better assessment of open space that would work for community gardens
needs to be done, on the ground and by people who know the lay of the
land and who've actually done some gardening.
They recommend a
town-wide program to compost "food waste," which sounds ideal, but they
don't explain that a lot of food waste can't be composted and how you'd
keep people from throwing meats, fats, dairy, oils and sugar into the
I don't know why community gardens on vacant lots would violate zoning as long as the owner gives permission.
think that some of the Temple recommendations have potential, I don't
think most were well thought out or researched. I have to admit I was disappointed in
the assessment. It seemed like the people who put together this report
possibly never raised vegetables, had no farming experience, never
composted anything, never slept overnight in a place that had a chicken
coop, and probably saw a fruit tree or the ground under it at harvest time. All
of their recommendations seem to come straight from trendy articles on
urban planning and not from experience, or from much time spent in our
Their last recommendation was that a Food Council ought to
be formed to "manage progress" and advise our government what changes
could be made. I think it's a good idea as long as the council isn't
filled with planners, but with people who know and understand gardening,
emergency food, agriculture and other aspects of the topic.