Civic Veggies

Civic Veggies

There is something new at the San Francisco’s City Hall. On Civic Center Plaza, where there was a grass lawn, there is now a vegetable garden. At last, City Hall is raising something besides taxes.

“This is the next big narrative in the environmental movement,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom in July, as volunteers (including famed restaurateur Alice Waters) planted an organic garden of beets, broccoli, cabbage and mustard greens in the Civic Center Plaza’s central promenade. The Mayor had previously banned bottled water from City Hall, signed laws banning plastic bags at supermarkets and drugstores, and has spoken of installing wind-powered electric generators at the public facility.

The symbolic “Victory Garden,” slated to feed the poor and hungry, was planted as a symbol and educational exhibit for September’s annual Slow Food Nation meeting, a gathering more devoted to a gourmet version of sustainability through “luxury locavorism” than relief for the poor. It is not clear if the garden will be replanted after the meeting. Other “Victory Gardens” have been planted around the city.

Americans do not seem to realize that wartime “Victory Garden” initiatives were sandwiched by U.S. Department of Agriculture efforts to have the urban poor plant “relief gardens” during the Great Depression. This new effort, driven by high food prices and economic recession as much as nutrition, has more in common with the New Deal gardens than war efforts.

The governments of Kuala Lumpur and Malacca in Malaysia are providing the poor with gardening tools and supplies. devoting half of the floral landscaping budget to planting vegetables in public spaces. Slow Food and Alice Waters do not seem to be involved, nor do the veggie-gardening celebs of Southern California.

Here’s a thought for the US of A: substitute veggies for the largest irrigated crop in the nation — grass. Rip out front lawns at suburban homes and office parks. And wouldn’t country club restaurants like to serve fresh salads? Plant the golf course rough with radishes, rhubarb, rutabaga and radicchio and garnish the greens with parsley. This makes even more sense in drought-plagued California. And here in the east, golf courses can provide a tasty main course: roast Canada Goose.

3 Responses to “Civic Veggies”

  1. Recent Faves Tagged With "veggies" : MyNetFaves Says:

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  2. P.Price Says:

    Excellent point about similarities between new victory garden revival and New Deal/Depression gardens. Also, some noteworthy similarities with Whip Inflation Now (WIN) gardens promoted by Gerald Ford. As for the term “victory garden,” it predates even WWI (when “war garden” or “liberty garden” were more common), first appearing in England during the 1600s. Lots of other popular terms…freedom gardens, peace gardeners, edible estates…all have their proponents and followers right now, too.

  3. Mike Licht Says:

    The current movement seems singular in that, at least in my neighborhood, urban farmers are not the poor but well-to-do “foodies.”

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