Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture may be ahead of its time. It poses an interesting question to city and town planners - and we, the residents: should local food production rank right up there with planning for local housing, roads and education?
Darrin Nordahl who has taught at the University of California Extension in Berkeley and now works for the Community and Economic Development Department in Davenport, Iowa, considers municipally sponsored agricultural projects a natural extension of the "post organic/buy local" movement. He presents some stunning projects to prove his point. Local governments can become a change agent in the area of local food production.
Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, who reasons that "importing some food is different from importing most of it," houses a 200,000-member apiary on the green roof of City Hall. Sale of its honey supports local cultural events. Kaiser Permanente, the largest health organization in the country, opens Farmers Markets in thirty of its facilities from Georgia to Hawaii. The first, in Oakland, California, was started because a Kaiser doctor is convinced that "nothing is more important to people's health that what they eat everyday."
In Detroit, Michigan, 30 percent of the city's land is vacant. Community groups have converted these underused locations into local opportunities to produce food. Detroit's urban farming recently sparked stories in the New York Times. Seattle adopted a city-wide goal: create a dedicated garden site for each 2,500 households. Providence, Rhode Island intends to double the amount of food grown in and around the city in the next ten years. Des Moines, Iowa, has already moved beyond public food gardens to establish public orchards, grape arbors and a nuttery.
The author argues that "the sheer abundance of land within public control necessitates a hard look at how it can best serve the needs of the shareholders" and points to an "increasing number of public officials across the country who believe growing food is not only an acceptable land use, but necessary for the health and well-being of the community.
The future will hopefully be, as Nordahl suggests, a time when growing food constitutes "the highest and best use for land." The publication of this book certainly forwards that view of the future.