Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Bigger Picture

Since I’ve started my garden, many people have asked, why are you doing this? There are farmer’s markets, CSAs, independent and chain grocers at your disposal, why did you choose to grow your own vegetables, let alone, research on how to grow them on your rooftop?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit. At first, my response, was, “what’s it matter to you what I do or why I do it?” Then it evolved to: “why wouldn’t I do it, doesn’t it just makes sense?”

The more I think about it the more I feel that there was this idea of relearning about food - where it comes from, how it grows, and how to grow it. Then I started thinking about how can I, a Chicagoan with zero farmable land, grow my own food? Now, I find myself thinking about how to extend the seasons here in Chicago, the best times to rotate plants, where to procure my materials, and how to spread the word.

It’s a “back to basics” thing for me. Why do I do it? Simply, because I can. You can too and it’s not only good for you, it can potentially be good for your community, your environment and other communities and environments around the world. That’s the bigger picture.

Seem lofty? Sure it does but if you think about it, it’s pretty simple. It’s the old, “give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish…” If you learn to grow food for you and your family, and then share the knowledge with other families in your community or around the world, you can change the lives of other people. One organization that is linking this knowledge with technology is The Growing Connection. They aim to engage “people a network of committed individuals - in an elegant solution to one of man’s fundamental challenges.”

“The Growing Connection (TGC) is a grassroots project developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) supported by a progressive coalition of private and public sector partners.” They see the opportunity to use the recent agricultural technology, also known as SIPs (or Earthboxes, in this case) as the medium to grow vegetables in poor economic or climate conditions. Then, they use the knowledge gained to bridge communities and countries together via the internet. It’s people sharing their experience with other people for a greater good. You can view a video here.

One thing that struck me is how they gather people from the academic setting, neighborhood children, and technology professionals together for this cause. Teaching children and communicating in our information age, has all come together. The bigger picture is starting to become clear.

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