More and more publications are reporting on the changing tide towards growing our own food, most especially in urban areas. This is something I can sense with my own eyes and ears as more and more community gardens crop up in every city I visit, and as more and more emails flood my inbox with questions about growing tomatoes, or starting a food garden for the first time.
A few years back I was invited to be on a TV program discussing recent stats proclaiming that gardening with plants is dead and it’s all about hardscaping (patios, bricks, etc) from here on out. The show invited two additional “experts”, a suburban landscaper and a suburban garden center manager, both of whom insisted that their clients wanted to pave over the garden and put in expensive sculptures. They assured the audience that NOBODY wants to garden with actual living plants anymore. But I insisted that they were wrong and that there was a grassroots movement going on that would surprise them all, one that centered around local events, plant trading, buying from farmer’s markets and other sources that could not be tracked by garden industry sales figures. I suggested that perhaps their numbers were skewed because they were based on a specific demographic — one with a certain income, and of a certain age, living in certain areas, and meeting all of their gardening needs via giant suburban garden stores.
And sure enough we are seeing proof positive that gardening with plants wasn’t dead in the least, it was just quietly shifting gears and growing in places where no one would have expected it. And what’s really encouraging is that we are now starting to see shifting stats from the seed sellers themselves. Last year a Toronto Star article reported that vegetable seed sales had outstripped, Ã¢â‚¬Å“…those of flowers for the first time since the 1950s.Ã¢â‚¬Â And this article claims that seed sellers are seeing a dramatic rise in food gardening, with seed orders so overwhelming some are having a hard time keeping up.
The following quote from a West Coast Seeds sales representative gave me goosebumps:
“We typically sell to people who own their own home, but this is different. These are young people who are very interested in food gardening. I think they get it.”
Something new is happening in cities in the “rich and modern” western world, something that I am sure no one could have predicted: people aren’t just growing their own food, they are selling it back to their communities too. I live right down the street from a small urban farm where residents of a local mental health facility are growing food organically on the property and selling the fruit of their labor out on the street once weekly during the summer months. An article was published in yesterday’s New York Times about urban farmers in Brooklyn who are growing crops in empty lots and waste spaces and selling them at local markets. The article goes on to mention the growing rise in food gardens in cities across the U.S.
What’s amazing is that everything is coming together right now in a way that is making all of this possible. People are excited about growing their own food, our cultural climate has shifted placing emphasis on food quality and ethical growing practices which means there is a growing market of consumers who want to buy locally grown food, and cities are starting to support these endeavors, seeing the benefits that gardens, especially food-growing gardens can bring. All of this is very encouraging and exciting making me feel just a little bit more optimistic that we aren’t all racing towards the apocalypse. I’m squee-ing on the inside just a little bit right now.