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Public Produce

I am reading Darrin Nordahl’s book, Public Produce, a compelling case for cities to allow urban gardening and “orcharding” [my word, not his] on public lands.  While we all want broad open spaces in which to play, loll, and feel the reach of freedom and opportunity, we also all like to eat – often, well and cheaply. Often near where we play and loll! There is ample room in cities for both.

Today’s local community gardens are the first step to such a goal. In World War II, millions of Victory Gardens were able to provide 40% of fresh vegetables to Americans. Imagine the capacity of cities and neighborhoods and lawns today to produce local, delicious small fruits and vegetables! Amazingly, there exists 40 million acres of grass in this country, making it the largest irrigated crop in America – never mind the tons of pesticide and fertilizers we use on them. Imagine if we turned even 10% of that to well-managed local gardens and orchards.

Commercial urban farms are coming next – often utilizing land abandoned by manufacturing and retail. Detroit is pioneering in this. Baltimore City is experimenting with it as well.

Public lands are next. Already cities such as LA, Seattle, Portland are creating public food forests. Other cities are using bits of open land here and there to grow more compact garden varieties.

The BOP is in on-going conversations with Baltimore City to see if we can find a place to pilot public orchards on public lands for public consumption managed by the public.

Bottom line: we need to garner all the resources we can to combat food insecurity. We live in a world with growing concern around climate change, energy sources and costs, urban growth and clean water access. Local orchards, and more expansively, food forests (aka forest gardens) can be a significant part of feeding people in the future, reducing the impact and incidence of poverty, creating new urban economic development, improving urban environmental health and a stronger America.

As Nordahl says: “Food security is economic security is national security.”  And food security eases the spirit and gives it room to soar. It is hard to build one’s dreams when spending one’s days scavenging for food.

This fall, the BOP expects to plant 75 fruit trees in Baltimore City. Please be in touch with us if you would like us to help you plant some near you this spring.

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