Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Now THIS is what I call Acting Locally!

John Kaiahua (left) and Justin Berrell loaded a wagon with kale that had
been harvested from Kaiahua’s JJ Farms in Raytown.

Award-winning veteran KC Star business reporter Victoria Sizemore Long has turned her investigative and research skills to the subject of urban gardening here in the metro in the feature story on the front page of the business section today.

I have mentioned before that I am a proponent of the “slow food” movement that gains a little ground every time there is another food scare.

We “eat what we kill” literally. (Yeah, yeah, the tooth – I know.) Now that the farmers markets are open, we are buying our fresh produce from them, and we will be the beneficiaries of the largess of a couple of relatives who have “truck gardens” up in the northern tier counties. I will be scarce for a week or so in late summer/early fall and go north to can and freeze a lot of the veggies and fruits that we will eat next winter.

(Who knew I was riding a wave of a trend?)

Here in the city, I walk past community gardens that have sprung up on vacant lots on a daily basis. These gardens are positive for the community on so many levels. First of all, the blight and trash of inner city vacant lots have been replaced with vibrant community gardens.

In areas beset by social ills, they are a bright spot. They foster social interaction and they provide a common purpose. Neighbors work together. And in the end of it all, everyone gets a few nutritious meals, some strengthened community connections and a sense of accomplishment.

Ms. Sizemore Long really did her homework on this one. She interviewed people all over the city and dug into the issue. I am not going to rewrite her wonderful piece, go read it. I am however, going to excerpt this part, which I found particularly heartening:

“In the last 10 years we have seen a real spurt of growth,” said Katherine Kelly, who, with Daniel Dermitzel, founded the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture in Kansas City, Kan. And the trend has picked up in the last few years, Kelly said.

Passionate farmers eager to nurture other urban growers, Kelly and Dermitzel created the center in 2004 to promote community-based small-scale entrepreneurial farming in the area. They have a vision of city farming that includes:

•Small community-based farms scattered throughout the area, providing fresh and healthy food to city residents.

•New opportunities for people who would like to farm and generate an income doing so.

•Urban design that turns unused, vacant and unsightly spaces to productive use and treats small-scale agriculture as an integral part of a beautiful, lively and healthy neighborhood.

That vision seems to be taking shape.

Eating locally is just a good idea. It is good for the local economy – family farms have been struggling for decades, and if niche marketing can be applied to solving some of those problems, then that is another plus.

Eating locally reduces your carbon footprint, too. All that processed food has to be shipped. As the article makes clear, what kind of sense does it make for us, living in the breadbasket of the nation, to be at the end of a 1500 mile food-chain from Florida or California?

[Full disclosure - Vickie Long and I are friends. In fact - I owe her lunch. A favorable post is in no way an attempt to resolve that debt.]

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