The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

There’s a society-upending movement afoot April 7, 2010

Does it have a name? I’m not sure. It’s part Urban Agriculture, part Back to the Land, part Slow Food, part sustainability. It’s all of those things wrapped up in a deep need by modern Americans to fix what has gone wrong with our food system. I would call it a Food Revolution, but Jamie Oliver stole that name for his new show.

Yup, Oliver’s new show is part of the movement too. It follows him as he attempts to repair the way people eat in one the fattest towns in America, located in West Virginia. In the first episode last Friday, he attacked the lunch system in the school by banishing sugury milk and teaching the elementary school students how to use forks and knives. He also tries to get a family to eat better. It’s a sad sight to see, as an obese mother weeps with relief when she finds out that her middle schooler isn’t diabetic. Yet.

The night before I attended a fundraiser for BK Farmyards, a new urban garden networks that wants to transform the way people in Brooklyn shop for and eat food. As I sipped spicy magaritas with my friend Anne, who works at Idealist, we watched films that all seemed to drive home one crucial point: “Agribusiness, you stupid motherf***ers, we are coming for you.”

Ok, the f-bomb wasn’t necessary. It was more peace and love, naturally. But what I saw in those movies energizes me. More than ever I want to dig my hands into the soil, and at the end of a season pull out a carrot. My very own carrot that I grew myself, on my own land.

One quote in particular got me, from the movie Garden Cycles:

I have kids who come to Middlebury College from the lap of luxury, and pay $160 thousand in tuition, and all they want to do is farm.

What this says to me is that more and more people are getting real pleasure and happiness from turning down that desk job and digging in the dirt. Another person in the film commented on the American myth that farming is one of the most undesirable jobs out there. Yeah, it’s undesirable if you are being driven out of business by massive industrial farming companies. But it can bring real satisfaction to bring home the bacon in a more than just a metaphorical sense.

Other tidbits picked up from this adorable little event:

  • Farmers Markets are the fastest growing part of the food economy, and are growing even faster than Wal-Mart
  • Almost half of New York City’s waste is food
  • “Master Composter” is an actual, honest-to-god title, with an education to go with it
  • My next volunteer opportunity should totally be with the Familia Verde in the bronx, who run a community garden in one of the driest food deserts in the nation

There is so much more on this subject. For starters, read a Michael Pollan book. Or read the latest, wide-ranging articles on the subject of real food here, here, and here.

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