Rural, urban, vertical, hydroponic, container, CSA, industrial, rooftop, subsistence, hobby, organic, commercial, family, cooperative… As I sat down to write this introduction, this whole list came to mind as modifiers currently in use to clarify the term “farm”.
What actually qualifies as a farm today? I’m fascinated by the evolution not only of the term but by what it refers to in practice.
A few years back, I enlisted the help of my three teenagers in converting a large perennial garden to grow exclusively edibles. We called it “the farm”. Then, they started going off to college and the farm became a garden again. I planted native plants to save water and dug up more grass to grow vegetables in a smaller space.
As a kid growing up in Seattle, in the center of the city, we always had a vegetable garden. A generation earlier, it might have been called a “Victory Garden”. Now, it might be called a small urban farm. In the 60′s and 70′s, we grew a wide assortment of veggies in raised beds in our back yard, where it was required that we all work, “as a family”. In the 80′s, I had a sunny corner in my own tiny garden, and made my own mistakes learning how to grow food. In the 90′s, A growing family meant devoting more space to peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes. Now I’m trying to grow more variety and less volume for fewer people. Over the long term, what I’ve discovered is that my interest in growing edible plants goes far beyond what I put on my table for dinner.
I believe that our health, and that of our earth depend on us, the human population, finding ways to use fewer of its resources, and that shrinking the distance our food travels, and the amount of time from harvest to table is part of that equation.
I first participated and became interested in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs about 25 years ago. They supplemented what I could grow in my own garden. Over time, I’ve noticed that in Seattle, the interest in P-Patches and Urban Agriculture projects has significantly outpaced the supply of readily available land.
Locally, new CSA programs pop up every year and farmer’s markets are thriving. Blogs about backyard farming in areas across the country are all over the internet. The sound of chickens clucking and squawking in city neighborhoods is no longer uncommon. Urban garden centers take special orders for heirloom varieties of vegetables, and most notably, you can find feed stores in the middle of the city.
Simultaneously, the scene is changing in rural areas. Housing developments still replace farmland, but in other areas, new roofs are replacing the old weathered farm buildings as idealistic young people take on the challenges of working the land and growing food sustainably.
My reference to the next seven generations in the subtitle refers to the Great Law of the Iroquois; that decisions made today be made in such a way as to benefit the next seven generations. The idea behind this blog is to create a reference and visual record of the burgeoning efforts I encounter to creatively address the issues of food safety and sustainability, whether they occur in farming on rural land, suburban back yards, or on rooftops and asphalt in urban neighborhoods; the effort to finally treat the earth as our home and the future home of the next seven generations.
If you have a farm or food production project; urban, suburban or rural, that you’d be willing to have me photograph and write about to share with others who are looking for ideas and inspiration, please contact me. I’d like to include a wide variety in these pages.