The Official City Garden

Every city should have at least one official city produce garden. It should be large, on city land, run by an experienced manager, and grow produce to be distributed free to citizens who need it.

Every city has a number of difficulties to deal with regarding its poorest citizens. Homelessness is a problem that is unlikely to go away, but improvements may be made in various ways, including the city garden. Not all of the homeless are those who have lost control of their lives because of substance abuse, and among the rest, all they need is a bit of work and a subsidized place to live.

Recent news tells us that long term unemployment among boomers fifty or older has created a serious problem. Too many people in this category are perfectly capable of working and want to work. But they are unemployed for various reasons, and many have tried unsuccessfully to find work for years. The result has been discouragement, depression, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and suicide.

Hunger in our cities is a completely solvable problem. Most cities have various programs that improve the distribution of food for those who can’t afford to buy enough. This is done through dining halls that serve anyone who shows up hungry, through distribution plans to families that qualify, through school breakfast and lunch programs funded in various ways, and through meal delivery systems for those who have difficulty leaving their home.

A large, subsidized city produce garden can contribute mightily to assist these programs.

Most cities own large properties that have been unused for many years. Often they are school sites abandoned or obsolete, and often these sites consist of an acre to several acres of land. Plots this size can produce large amounts of food.

Imagine such a plot, perhaps previously occupied by a school, or an industrial building such as a bus barn. If it is a school plot, it probably fronts on two streets, and is roughly square, and about four acres. Preferably, all buildings have been razed. If not, they must be. All building materials such as concrete and blacktop must be removed. If needed, the soil must be supplemented with clean topsoil from other city sites. Garden grade soil is not necessary, because the soil will be constantly improved with use.

Probably the plot will need to be surrounded by a fairly high fence to protect against theft of equipment and vandalism. A sturdy shed to hold the machinery and hand tools will be needed, which will include a small office. Work can continue through the winter with soil preparation, tool maintenance, and seedling growth in cold and hot frames or greenhouses. Greenhouses can be seasonal or permanent.

Frequent communication between the garden managers and receivers of the produce will be important in order to distribute the produce in the most efficient manner.

Depending on the size of the establishment, one or two full time personnel will be needed. It should be the policy to hire as many of the discouraged unemployed as possible, preferably for about 20 hours weekly. Pay for these persons should be well above minimum or subsistence, probably in the range of $20 an hour or more. This will give a substantial number of the unemployed enough income to afford rent in subsidized apartments. Since they will also qualify for free garden food, much of their cost of living will become manageable.

All cities process organic waste materials such as cut grass and chopped weeds, garbage, and chipped wood. Most such materials can be composted to enrich the garden soil. Wood chips are usually better used to form pathways in the garden, making it cleaner and dryer to work. Chips also prevent excess evaporation and control weeds. If needed, restaurants and food stores can be recruited to contribute organic waste for composting. After a few years of such soil treatment the garden soil will be very rich, and will produce massive amounts of food. No commercial fertilizers will ever be necessary. In addition, it will be unnecessary to till the soil in any way, because the constantly added mature compost will keep the soil soft and rich. All that is needed is to plant the seeds or young plants.

The costs of operating such an enterprise are not huge, but they are substantial. But my belief is that the payoff for the city lies not only in the value of the food produced, but in reducing the amount of assistance needed for the poor, homeless, and unemployed. The amount of produce from a four-acre plot fertilized with the waste products of a typical city will very soon be measured in tons of food. In addition, many cities will easily support multiple plots of this type.

A well managed food growing and distribution system should make hunger among the poor a thing of the past.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Congratulations, what a marvelous idea. One thing you would need may be a few cooking classes or a community kitchen


  2. No perdamos la esperanza en la literatura, alguna pequeña pluma hará eco de ello y se reconocerá su valor, esperemos que no sea sidgLciala.nueeo vas por la calle viendo como todo el mundo se queja de lo mal que va España, ya quisieran muchos paises O territorios tener nuestra suerte, no?


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