Edible Public Spaces

apple tree

About 4 years ago, when the recession splashed over, I wandered through the city, observing the green areas of the public spaces between the blocks of flats, with trees and bushes and asked myself why don’t those people plant fruit trees and fruit bushes there, so they can have fruits when they need. They could have fruits all spring, summer and early autumn. An maybe the lines in front of the humanitarian warehouses would be a bit shorter.

Many fruit trees grow high and bear lots of fruits, like apple trees, cherries, pears, plums, apricots, mulberries, figs, persimmons, peaches, jujubes, cornels, carobs, strawberry trees and others (in the other climate areas), and don’t need lots of tending, and don’t need to be sprayed with phytopharmaceuticals. For some years I forgot about that walk to the town that brought me that very thought.

And guess what? Two years later I was browsing the internet and I could only ask myself if someone was reading my mind when I saw this:

http://mundraub.org/

http://obststadt.at

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A Free Gardening Plot for the Poorest Members of the Community

About half a century ago, I lived in a country with the inflation reaching thousand percent and over. Apart from running out of money right in the middle of the month and being unable to get to our jobs except by foot or by bicycle, it was fun. We were all millionaires. Money wasn’t anything serious anymore. The situation resembled the situation in »Gone with the Wind« where money was used for stuffing the holes in the walls. We played children’s roulette with it instead. Then, overnight, our country lost 80% of its market, the 30% allowed profit margin, and only domestic market remained.

During high inflation times our self-sustenance with the food produced in our own country was 80-90%. People owned small farms, where some of the owners farmed after their full time jobs. Other people rented the land from private farmers and some from the state. House owners usually had gardens, where fruits, vegetables and even poultry or other small animals were kept. Yet others rented small gardening plots in the town’s vicinity, where they grew vegetables and fruits. Growing own food wasn’t disgraceful then.

And, we were sharing within the communities – what one had in abundance he/she would offer to the neighbor and receive something useful in return. People regularly went to help their relatives who were farming and received food in return. In afternoons many went to help their friends or relatives to build or repair their houses.

Some 25 years later those gardening plot groups were banished, because their shags were disrupting the views of the town officials. This happened while hypermarkets were built.  So, at present we have about 2,5 square meters shopping space per person (above EU average) and some 10-20% of self-sustenance with the domestic food production, declining expertise in agricultural knowledge among the young generations, an increasing expertise among the poor in chasing discounted food offered by the continuous marketing actions and no limits to the profit margins. Supermarkets offer a separate box with discounted vegetables and fruits nearing their expiration date and a cart to place a purchased item for the poor. A gloomy sight!

Then in 2005, when I visited my relatives in the USA, I observed how people used their credit cards. The situation looked so familiar, I was sure it won’t last long before the whole system crashes. I didn’t need to wait more than three years. The entropic system crumbled like a house of cards and spread all over the planet.

However, it looks like poor people can support themselves during recession when they can grow food on their own or rented gardening plots. The more natural the food production, the better it is as we can read in Food and Permaculture, where David Blume states that “permacultural farming yields 8 times more than what USDA claims possible” and 22% CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) for the soil (the divide line between dead and alive soil is 5% CEC).

I presume that every municipality owns some (surrounding) land. So, my suggestion is that every municipality on the planet offers a free of charge gardening plot in the town’s vicinity to its poorest members. Maybe they can even offer some flat roofs, if they can hold the weight of the soil and vegetables. It wouldn’t be such entirely new idea, some states and communities have provided themselves with gardening before as we can see in the documentary series Around the World in 80 Gardens by Colin Jones and other similar documentaries.

There should be no rent for the poorest; the only condition should be that they learn how to grow organically produced vegetables and fruits.  And maybe they can dig a well for the watering. There are more benefits to this than just food supply. Usually it is more satisfactory to produce own food than to beg for it at one of the charity institutions. It usually has more dignity in it and people don’t lose their connectedness to the land so quickly. Their children might pick up some agricultural knowledge while helping to garden as well. And in due time they might become not only experts in gardening, but also experts in avoiding food adds for they will learn that the most delicious food comes from the soil and not from the store shelves. In this way the poor might not live in such scarcity and the agricultural knowledge won’t be lost either.