10,000 Urban Farms
Many decades ago, the spark that ignited my journey was my curiosity about how to grow a garden in the desert, something I don't think I fully understood at the age of 15. Over the years this knowledge turned into a deep desire to share with others just how easy it is. Then more recently – in a time of escalating health issues – I have come to understand that the diseases we face today have two primary causes: environmental toxins and stress.
Interestingly, we have a significant amount of control over both. The good news is that considerable quantities of the environmental toxins we consume come from our food. Hmmm, why is this good news, you say? Because unlike the air we breathe (which we essentially have no control over), we can make an impact on our toxin consumption by making wise food choices.
For decades I have asked: Is it organic? Where was it grown? How far was it shipped? And the questions go on. All of them are answered for us when we grow our own food.
Call me crazy, but recently I dreamed up a project that calls for an urban farm on every street, which I've named 10,000 Urban Farms in Phoenix. One person in every neighborhood growing food to share, believe it or not, seems very doable to me.
In revisiting my six years of writings for Edible Phoenix I see the seeds of this project sowed in just about every article I have penned:
"There is some thing to eat in my yard every day, 365 days a year. Last Thanksgiving it was a wonderful salad that included: six different greens such as Nasturtium leaves and sorrel (a surprise find growing in the back 'wild' area); ruby red pomegranate seeds; an incredible citrus called limequat that was sliced up skin and all for a tangy/sweet sensation; and bits of the herbs tarragon and fennel, with a smidge of that pretty little three leaf clover you see growing in some yards called sour grass. The flavors were so diverse and striking that no salad dressing was required." Edible Phoenix, Spring 2006
Ah, those first words from my premier article. Not much has changed in my yard since then. However, the human landscape of Phoenix has significantly transformed. Although the journey has been long and sometimes unforgiving, we are finally at a point of change. The people that I interact with every day are, all of a sudden, very interested in where their food comes from. We are at a tipping point. . . not in a struggle against something, but in a quantum leap of our consciousness about the health of our food. We've discovered what real food is, where to find it and how to grow it. Magic is in the air and many are participating in bringing the food movement home to our own front and back yards.
"A friend recently went to the South Pacific on a sailing trip. He stopped at one of the tiny islands and asked to be directed to the grocery store. He was handed a bag and invited to go pick his lunch from the surrounding forest. He returned with an interesting collection of tropical fruit and a delicious lunch to boot. I found this relationship with food to be an interesting concept, and one that doesn't need to be all that foreign to us here in Arizona." Edible Phoenix, Spring 2007
Experiences such as these have deeply rooted in me the concept of planting food everywhere. It has never made sense to me to plant something that isn't edible, particularly when it's so easy to grow and browse for fresh food in our yards. Although a few years ago the thought of being able to harvest an entire meal from an urban farm and its surrounding neighborhood was novel and quite rare, today it is a more regular occurrence.
What we've accomplished has been through a continual process of learning and sharing. It's been a joy for me to share what I know with my community. From discovering a different method of composting (Edible Phoenix, Spring 2006), to how to keep chickens (Edible Phoenix, Spring 2009) to alternatives to watering your garden (Edible Phoenix, Summer 2008) we've addressed all the key components to successfully growing healthy edibles in the desert.
"Most windowsills, balconies or patios make a great place for your small vegetable garden where you can grow a myriad of different edible delectables to please your palate. Planting in containers offers several advantages and disadvantages, but if you are persistent you can have success. One of the biggest advantages of your new container garden is that you can move it as you need as the seasons change." Edible Phoenix, Spring 2009
What I do know is that I won't stop until we have transformed the food structure in the Valley of the Sun into a thriving local edible landscape designed to nourish our bodies and souls. Writing for Edible Phoenix has been an exciting journey that has given me the opportunity to clarify my message and touch many people. I am most grateful for this.
We are in the midst of a revolution . . . a food revolution. One where we understand the significance of the food we put into our bodies and how it affects our lives and our health. Join me as we transform our yards and our lives into a healthy, happy edible landscape, 10,000 urban farms at a time.
Getting to Know the Urban Farm
We took this picture of Greg Peterson in May 2005 on our first official visit to the Urban Farm as Edible Phoenix. We hadn't printed our first issue yet, but Greg greeted photographer Carole Topalian (a co-founder of Edible Communities) and me with open arms. It was a magical time to visit the property – the peaches, apricots and apples hung ripe in the trees, the chickens clucked happily in the yard and Greg was in the midst of a construction project to put in an outdoor kitchen. He spoke with us about his philosophy and asked if there was some way we could help spread the Urban Farm message. We have been happy to help do so.