The buzzwords organic and green have become chic, but real organic food grown in our own yards appears to be a necessity in the near future. With gas prices rising to unaffordable levels for some, many people in the United States are thinking about driving less and walking or biking more. We would also benefit from thinking about growing more of our own food.
In fact, several Charlotte communities have voiced their desire to grow their own food. During a recent round of sustainable visioning workshops in 11 Charlotte neighborhoods facilitated by the local non-profit, Sustain Charlotte, residents called for implementing food systems in their neighborhoods. In an October interview with Plan Charlotte, Shannon Binns, founder of Sustain Charlotte, said “There were two things that arose…A lot of the neighborhoods had a goal around food. They wanted either some sort of farmers’ market or grocery store or community garden. Another area was energy. People understand that reducing energy use in their home reduces their utility bills. They were very interested in finding ways to do that (http://plancharlotte.org/story/charlotte-neighborhood-sustainability).”
Our existing food system provides a huge variety of choices to shoppers, but is an unsustainable model. Exotic foods grown in tropical climates are shipped to our stores on a daily basis. Many analysts of world food prices believe that several food markets around the world will shut down with the inevitable rise of gas prices. Imagine the costs to fuel this method with higher gas prices: rising energy costs mean that stores will have to charge more for products as they are forced to cover higher transportation costs, as well as in-transit and on-site refrigeration.
A poll completed in 2010 by Smart Growth America showed that 84% of those surveyed agreed that the United States needs to become a less oil-dependent nation. But do folks really know what that means? Community gardens have been a talking point in urban design and planning disciplines for many years now. They provide a food source that is walkable and fuel-free, that create a connective tissue in the community, and that enrich residents’ lives beyond the high quality nutrition that comes from the food. Incorporating more community gardens into our neighborhood infrastructures will ultimately lead to healthier minds and bodies. Urban agriculture will be the binding fabric of our repaired cities and suburbs of the future.
Providing and supporting more local and homegrown food options will require us to change our lifestyles. It’s going to take some patience and practice for many of us to learn how to grow food. On the other hand, we are also a nation that built itself from the ground up. We can fix what we’ve broken. Let’s start by learning how to grow organic vegetables in our own yards and organizing community gardens in our neighborhoods. When you get that first crop of tomatoes, take some to a neighbor you’ve never met and watch how your life blossoms.