December 04, 2007

The New, New Thing: Localvores, Gardens and Art

On Monday KQED had a story about a local art movement that ties directly into the localvore movement. Localvores are people who eat only locally grown and locally produced food. As the show said, in San Francisco the localvore concept is building on an old idea. Amy Franceschini is working to bring back the World War II concept of Victory Gardens to the city.

To her, it's about weaning Americans from a "centralized" agricultural system that allows consumers to buy fruits and vegetables at the supermarket. In Franceschini's estimation, that system burns too much fossil fuel, requires too many fertilizers and pesticides and leaves the American food chain at too high a risk of E. coli outbreaks.

Franceschini, 37, is the architect of a San Francisco pilot project to revive victory gardens here and beyond. She recently secured $60,000 of seed money from the San Francisco government to pay for 15 backyard plots, with the hope of expanding the effort dramatically after 2008.

Inspired by a book on the history of community gardening, Franceschini assembled an art project entitled "Victory Gardens 2007+" for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which caught the attention of city officials.

Franceschini, an artist and assistant professor of visual arts at the University of San Francisco, wrestled with whether she should retain the word "victory," which is "loaded with nationalism," she said.

In the 1940s, "You were participating in a war, and that's something I don't want this to be -- I wanted to reclaim the word as well as the program," she said.

Eventually she decided: "I wanted to keep that word 'victory' because we are in a time of war, (but) we should change what that word means so that victory should mean self-reliance and independence from corporate food systems."

This ties back into another art-cum-gardening project that my friend told me about a few weeks ago. The project known as edible estates had been designed by artist Fritz Haeg to try to break down the barriers between the red states and the blue states after 2001 by connecting people back to things that matter like our need for good, wholesome food. His proposal has captured the imagination of a number of backers as well.

Haeg realized that it isn't just inhabitants of the blue states that are worried about the quality of our food supply, but this was an issue that was shared by our neighbors in the red states. And he also realized that it could be used to help foment a protest against the ongoing corporatization of our food supply and a subversive attack on the suburban front lawn.

Recent edible estates gardens have been planted in London as part of a Tate Museum exhibit, Austin, Tx and Baltimore, MD. The garden in London has quite a variety of vegetables:

This first planting includes fruits, vegetables and herbs: apples, plums, raspberries, currants, tomatoes, aubergine, brussel sprouts, scarlet runner beans, peas, lettuce, rocket, spinach, bok choy, artichokes, fennel, onions, parsley, coriander, sage, bay, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, dill, calendula, marigolds and nasturtiums.

Fritz has been looking for opportunities to plant an edible estate in all the climatic zones throughout the United States.

Who thought gardens could be so subversive? Perhaps you are ready to see how you can join this green movement? Contact Amy if you live in the Bay Area or Fritz if you want to part of his project. And good eating!

Posted by Mary at December 4, 2007 07:38 AM | Food | Technorati links |