Monday, August 18, 2008

Real Victories: My day at the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden with Urban Sprouts alums

Top: Jose, Vera, Lisa, and Mario in the Victory Garden

Bottom: Urban Sprouts hanging out in Mayor Gavin Newsom's office. Mario, when you become mayor, you will remember to put a garden in every school, right?

Okay, by now everyone and their grandmother has heard about the Slow Food Nation conference, which is quickly approaching – the first such event in the country! I think that most of us in the urban & sustainable agriculture / school garden worlds are excited that these issues are now garnering deserved notoriety.

While most of the workshops require that you purchase tickets, one of the most exciting programs of the conference is free to all – the incredible Victory Garden currently installed at Civic Center Plaza. If you haven't seen it, try to visit soon, because in September the garden will be dismantled and all the veggies will be given to charity.

Last week, I took two Urban Sprouts students from MLK Middle School on a tour of the Victory Garden, City Hall, and the Civic Center Farmer’s Market. We started off at the farmer's market, sampling the fresh fare and chatting with vendors. I was SO proud when the boys, both alums of our Summer Program, were filled with questions about the produce - they asked the beekeepers about how to extract honey, learned how to select the sweetest peaches, and tried new and pungent cheeses. Jose's pleas for soda aside, the boys were engaged and excited to be amidst the activity of the market. At one point Mario said to me, "I always thought this place looked boring from the outside, but this is so much fun!" Both of them went home with summer berries and white nectarines.

Afterwards, we went on a brief walk around City Hall, where I interned this summer in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. The highlight was when my former supervisor, Mike Farrah, took us to see Gavin Newsom's office (who was away on his honeymoon). The boys had a blast sitting in "Gav's" chair!

We finished the afternoon in the Victory Garden with a picnic lunch.
While the garden is indeed lovely, and amazingly prolific, its beauty goes beyond its physical features. Whenever I visit the garden, I am blown away to see how people respond to it – visitors are genuinely curious and delighted to see food growing in front of City Hall. It is a bold statement and shows how urban farming is finally being embraced by a mainstream audience. The students were impressed by the volume of food that was being grown in a limited space (and in our unpredictable San Francisco climate, no less!) By the end of the day, they had the same question that has been on everybody's mind: why can't this garden be a permanent part of the Civic Center?

For more information on the Slow Food Nation event and the Victory Garden Movement:

Slow Food Nation
Victory Gardens 2008+
Garden for the Environment

No comments: