Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Get Urban Farming Started in LA

I am offering to volunteer my time to head a new commission formed to promote Urban farming in the Los Angeles area. Please contact me as soon as you have time to review the following so we can meet to discuss the details of its implementation.

President-elect Barack Obama calls the current crisis as “the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime” the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Unemployment is already officially at 8.2 percent, not counting those who have given up on looking for work, and it is certainly going to get much worse with more layoffs every day.

Is the city or the nation prepared for the social dislocation, economic despair and breakdown in law and order that could occur as the crisis worsens? Are there enough police, National Guard or military to keep order when millions of out of work, out of home and out of food?

You as Mayor can steps to mitigate the chaos and possible anarchy now before it is too late. One activity that can have the most far-reaching effects in these times of crisis is Victory Farms as put forth by Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

As you can see from this slide from Dmitri Orlov an eyewitness to the Soviet Union collapse 1991 we are especially vulnerable in our food distribution system. He believes “that, with a bit of preparation, such events can be taken in stride.”

Closing the Collapse Gap
Although the Soviet agricultural sector was notoriously inefficient many people grew and gathered their own food even in relatively prosperous times. There were food warehouses in every city, stocked according to a government allocation scheme. There were very few restaurants, and most families cooked and ate at home. Shopping was rather labor-intensive, and involved carrying heavy loads. Sometimes it resembled hunting – stalking that elusive piece of meat lurking behind some store counter. So the people were well prepared for what came next.

In the United States, most people get their food from a supermarket, which is supplied from far away using refrigerated diesel trucks. Many people don’t even bother to shop and just eat fast food. When people do cook, they rarely cook from scratch. This is all very unhealthy, and the effect on the nation’s girth, is visible, clear across the parking lot. A lot of the people, who just waddle to and from their cars, seem unprepared for what comes next. If they suddenly had to start living like the Russians, they would blow out their knees.

Therefore I propose you create a Victory gardening commission to educate and encourage Urban Agriculture in the Greater Los Angeles area. Throughout the United States homeowners have already seen the benefits of exchanging their front lawns for front gardens of organic fruits and vegetables, which no longer waste the water we no longer have because of the draught.

When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America.

You as Mayor should throw your support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over the reality of millions of homeless people without jobs or money.

Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change.

Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system — something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.

I don’t need to tell you that taking out front lawns will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, but we are in the 5th year of a draught and LADWP has already called for mandatory rationing: the lawns are going one way or the other. Imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals, not to mention the pesticides that go on the cities lawns.

Gardening promotes community as families and neighbors share their experiences as well as their garden bounty. Families learn together and work together for a common goal. Gardening allows many people to develop an acceptance of different ideas and practices and helps develop a sense of peace and tranquility, a necessity in the coming time as President Elect Obama will lead the nation out of its unsustainable American Dream and into the great new depression.

There will be chaos, perhaps, but with Urban gardening we might avoid anarchy.

by Robert Singer

Robert Singer is a retired information technology professional and an environmental activist living in southern California. In 1995 he and his cousin Adam D. Singer founded IPC The Hospitalist Company, Inc., where he served as chief technology officer. Today the company manages more than 130 practice groups, providing care in some 300 medical facilities in 18 states. Prior to that he was president of Useful Software, a developer and publisher of business and consumer software for the personal computing Industry.

Reprinted with permission from OpEd News.

Published by the LA Progressive on December 22, 2008
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