Los Angeles

The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden Takes Root

sfn-victorygarden.jpgIn the first event of Slow Food Nation, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Alice Waters, and Anya Fernald, executive director of Slow Food Nation, officially opened the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden at the San Francisco Civic Center on July 12. Coordinators and more than 250 volunteers worked to transform the heart of the Civic Center into an ornamental edible garden. Naomi Starkman’s description of the day can be found on the Slow Food Nation blog.

Planted on the same site as a World War II-era garden in 1943, the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden features a a wide variety of heritage organic vegetables suited to the Bay Area microclimate. All food grown in the garden will be harvested and donated to those with limited access to healthy organic produce through Slow Food Nation’s partnership with local food banks and meals programs.
Amy Franceschini, the founder of Victory Gardens 2008+ and one of the coordinators of the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden, answers the question, what does a “victory” garden mean in 2008?

What do we want to be cultivating as urban farmers today? As you are well aware, “Victory,” for the WWI and WWII Victory Garden programs was “winning the war.” Winning the war by growing more food at home so that the nation could send more food overseas to support the war effort.

“Victory” for the Victory Garden 2008 program is independence from a food system whose values we do not support. “Victory” for the Victory Garden program is reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal by growing more food locally. “Victory” is building an alternative to the American industrial food system, which we view as injurious to ourselves, and to the planet. In this way we redefine Victory within the pressing context of urban sustainability, while building upon the previously successful Victory Garden model.

I had my reservations about keeping the name Victory Gardens, but it is something that people across a wide spectrum understand. If we are going to truly cultivate a large-scale food revolution it must be popular. The name gives us a chance to discuss gardening in a time of war. The problematics inherent in the title opens up space for conversation, like this one! If it were called “Happy Gardens” like one city official proposed, maybe we would be denying ourselves from looking at some of the darker realities associated with food policy.

(Read the complete interview on the Slow Food Nation site.)

For more comments on the Victory Garden and on the events of July 12, including some criticisms of the garden’s cost and questions about its stated goals see Marc R.’s excellent post on The Ethicurean (with photos). And for photos, information, and commentary about the development of the garden, visit the Victory Garden segment of the Slow Food Nation blog, which will have updates as the garden grows.

We’re looking forward to sharing more news about urban farming with Slow Food Los Angeles members and friends. As a counterpoint to the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden–visually and geographically–Slow Food member Carol Goldstein noted that readers interested in urban gardening may also be intrigued by the P.F.1 project that opened in Queens (NY) in late June. Built entirely from recycled materials, 100% solar powered, and irrigated with collected rainwater, P.F.1 aims to educate visitors about sustainable urban farming in the context of contemporary architecture. Don’t miss the time-lapse film of P.F.1’s construction: an excellent example of how a space can be transformed in less than a month. A bit of P.F.1’s history is also available in a New York Times article about the project.