Excerpted from “Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016).
My work in Watts and my recent urban farming in Vancouver have left me with few illusions about the challenges we face in our effort to help grow these communities. I’ve shared my experiences with Seann; he’s done the same for me. And we sometimes encounter the reality that people are no easier to recover than the land buried under layers of pavement. Ours remains an imperfect endeavor.
But I know that we all need to eat and that we all need something to do each day that connects us to each other and to the broader world around us. If growing fruits and vegetables at Sole Food Street Farms could provide neighborhood men and women a constant, rock-solid, always-there, grounded-in-the-ground place to return to, then we would accomplish a great deal. Producing excellent quality food for the community, and creating a lush, green, multidimensional break from so much pavement, is a bonus.
Having worked with soil my whole adult life, I’ve come to see it as a metaphor for so much else. This neighborhood and its inhabitants remind me of the abused farm fields I had taken on before, soil that was so mistreated that it felt and looked like hardened concrete. I nurtured those soils with compost and cover crops and mulches and watched as they recovered and came alive. After a few years you could reach your hands deep and down into soil that had become loose and friable and fertile. Is it possible that here in this hardened landscape we could do the same, make useful and productive what had been abandoned and abused and forgotten?
Seann and I had no complicated vision for the corner of Hawks and Hastings, nothing that would require a degree in psychology or extensive experience in social service, just a reason for people to get out of bed each day, a choice to make between something that is life-giving and something that will bring you down.
Though uncomplicated, ours was a big idea, and for many reasons we knew that it might not work. I knew I could survive failure, but I worried about those whose lives have known nothing else.
Excerpted from “Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman
Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia―one of the worst urban slums in North America―who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood. It is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing others as a way to heal our world and ourselves.
Michael Ableman is a farmer, author, photographer and urban and local food systems advocate. Michael has been farming organically since the 1970′s and is considered one of the pioneers of the organic farming and urban agriculture movements. Ableman is a frequent lecturer to audiences all over the world, and the winner of numerous awards for his work.