Urban Ag – New York City
Food Forward is on the road shooting our first episode on urban agriculture in America. We just finished five great days in New York visiting some of the prime movers behind the city’s urban ag movement. As we talked to small scale urban farmers in NYC like Ben Flanner at Brooklyn Grange, Annie Novak at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, chef-turned-hydroponic farmer John Mooney, and Karen Washington; Bronx resident and urban farming pioneer, our crew kept asking ourselves: what difference are these people making?
Yes, these farmers are growing small plots of food in often challenging and unlikely places, but so what? How can they make a difference in a world reeling from the damage wrought by industrial agriculture? Is what these noble minded people doing affecting any change? Is this the solution we so desperately need?
For me I think the answer is a definite yes. And no.
No, urban agriculture won’t fod the cities of the world. None of these people aspire to do so. Nor will they create a counter force strong enough to topple big agribusiness. But something clicked for me when I spoke to Karen Washington in the garden she founded in the Bronx 23 years ago. Urban agriculture is a means of opening people’s eyes to the source of their food. It provides a vivid example of how good fresh food can taste. It creates consumers who start asking questions about where their food comes from and how it was grown. And that for me is what’s so powerful about urban agriculture. It can start a process of inquiry into what we eat and why.
The questioning and search for better alternatives to the way we feed ourselves has begun. That’s the real power of urban agriculture. I believe once you start asking questions the answers it unleashes a force that has the power to truly change how we eat in America. And that’s something to be excited about.