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LA Half-Way House Starts Vertical Farm
Sarah Kuck, 25 Aug 08

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Since moving into the Los Angles half-way house two years ago, residents of the Rainbow Apartments have been devising a plan to start their own urban garden. After a few trials and errors, the novice gardeners have now succeeded in creating a 34-foot-long plot bursting with strawberries, tomatoes, basil and other herbs and vegetables, which grow vertically against their cinder block building.

In addition to providing them with fresh, nutritious food, the residents have found that the garden has given them a way to connect with each other and build a supportive community. As Cara Mia DiMassa of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Many residents were surprised by the way gardening united them, in an area where it sometimes seems best to mind your own business and keep to yourself.
"It brings us together as a group, kind of like therapy, to see something growing and flourishing," Jannie Burrows said.
"We're trying to feed our bodies with better nutrients," Lance Shaw said. "But more than anything, we like getting together."

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The Rainbow Apartment's gardening group has now teamed up with U.S. nonprofit group Urban Farming to help them continue their efforts through their Food Chain project. This national program helps impoverished community members start their own gardens so they can grow their own healthy, affordable food.

As density and population increase in the years to come, it will be ideas and programs like this that could help us model future systems -- systems that will provide ways for everyone to have access to good, nutritional food, and maybe even provide ways to take part in their production.

Photo credit: Allen J. Schaben of the Los Angeles Times

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Comments

This is great. People working together, looking after their bodies, minds and environments. My building is a building full of individuals that just don't want to interact with each other. I'd like to live somewhere, where you can get all get involved in a project to improve the environment and eating standards.


Posted by: Mark on 25 Aug 08

I think I have never seen anything quite so bourgeois as this.

Let's get real people. Yesterday it was Tibetan meditation for New Yorkers, today it is urban gardening for Los Angelites.

There's a difference between feel good trends and real sustainability.

Local food is currently not a good idea, because it is socially destructive (it kills a lot of people in the Global South). Urban gardening does not provide 'healthy and nutritious' food, instead it provides bad and dangerously unhealthy food (as a recent report published for the Water Week showed).

I do understand that all these hip trends try to express some kind of dissatisfaction with modernity. But they remain a marginal hobby for very wealthy, well-off people, who have no clue about the scale of the world's challenges (like feeding 3 billion people who want to get into modernity, instead of out).


Posted by: Jonas on 25 Aug 08

Jonas, how does people in LA growing their own food kill people in other countries? Urban gardening in places where sanitation isn't good can make people sick, yes, but that's a problem of sanitation and education, not a problem of gardening. Can you provide a link to the study you're talking about that showed this, because Google's not been much help.


Posted by: Nate on 26 Aug 08

Jonas, how does people in LA growing their own food kill people in other countries? Urban gardening in places where sanitation isn't good can make people sick, yes, but that's a problem of sanitation and education, not a problem of gardening. Can you provide a link to the study you're talking about that showed this, because Google's not been much help.


Posted by: Nate on 26 Aug 08

That's funny, Jonas.

Yeah, those guys look really bourgeois! It's a halfway house!! Most of the home gardeners I know are not wealthy, but lower middle-class at best. They are doing it for personal empowerment, personal health, community beautification, ecological education for their children, and real sustainability resulting from less pesticide, herbicide, water and fossil fuel usage and keeping more money in the local economy. Vertical gardening in urban environments (especially when based on permaculture design) is a very important supplement to agriculture surrounding a city.

Tibetan meditation for New Yorkers (or anyone) is also one pathway towards sustainability--there are no commercials playing in one's head (or heart or soul) where you spend your time when you meditate--> less consumerism. Meditation can also reduce stress and improve one's ability to handle everyday situations, leading to greater happiness and contentment. If people are stressed out and unhappy, they are less likely to be able or willing to go the extra mile to participate in the creation of ecological solutions that lead toward sustainability.

Neither of these are "feel good trends," though feeling good is one of the many fringe benefits of participating.


Posted by: greensolutions on 26 Aug 08

While I'd agree it would be terrible if in moving away from chemically based, conventional agriculture, more people in poverty starved; however, in many less wealthy countries a large part of the food systems remain locally based. The farms of China are a mere acre or two. Where you do see larger, conventional operations in these countries, it is frequently for export like Malaysian palm oil going to European autos rather than Malay pantries.

But what of the urban poor in third (or first) world nations? While we could hope that US wheat and corn will continue to be cheap and plentiful for the world's poor, it seems prudent to explore all sustainable food production options. To that end, bravo for this foray into vertical gardening and let the world know what you learn.


Posted by: mulkerin on 26 Aug 08

This article is light on the details. In fact it reads more like a short news piece than a real article or blog.

I'd like to know how they constructed their vertical garden, how much it cost to build and maintain, and what challenges they had to overcome.

Its hard to see the feasibility of the project when none of the details are posted.


Posted by: Coconutfarmer on 29 Aug 08



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