Report from Peoria

Land of Lawns

This place Peoria is a funny town. I am here for Angie’s family reunion. It seems a lot of people here in the Midwest have a connection to land and farming. Farming is in a lot of Midwest blood. At the reunion I learned that a number of people grow some food in their backyards. It seems a common thing for people to have a few tomato, green bean, and or pepper plants that they have put in the ground at their homes. Even the idea of canning isn’t unfamiliar. But here is the funny thing to me: The houses in the neighborhood where I am staying all have big lots compared to cities like San Francisco, and everywhere I look I see lawns. There are also a lot of beautiful old and huge trees everywhere, and because of all the shades of green, it is very beautiful. For someone who has become obsessed with being an urban farmer and thinks about neighbors growing more local food, this lawn love drives me crazy. It doesn’t help that I am reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about a family’s year long experiment with growing all their own food and eating locally.

The lawn look does give one a sense of comfort and security in some ways, a feeling like things are under control. The question is whether this lawn life style is really sustainable in the long run. I am not a doom and gloom guy, I just want to be a farmer and grow some local food for myself and to share some with others, and do that where I live which happens to be the city.

I do know that the prairies are gone, replaced with acres and acres of subsidized corn and soybeans. Driving in a car yesterday I saw a small patch of a restored prairie (that is what the sign said) and it looked nice, kind of like a lawn actually, at least as I sped by.

The bottom line is these lawns don’t give me hope, but speak to me about the landscape of our society staying static and the same. There is hope in the trees though, and I wish I could bring some back to San Francisco with me next week.

Farm Stand News

I am happy to hear that friends opened the Free Farm Stand last Sunday. Here is something from Christy she just emailed me:

here’s the wiki page on loquat, with a lot of interesting properties and the Spanish name so many folks gave us yesterday: nispero

interesting that so many Latino folks immediately recognized this fruit that gringos consider “exotic”

It’s also exciting to know that we are getting more plums and loquats (I must be missing the apricots now).

I wonder if we are getting scarlet runner beans yet or trombocino squash, or chili peppers.

Next Sunday Corinne said she will open the stand and said she would welcome any help that shows up. Also, next Saturday there are going to be people planting a garden in front of city hall. I unfortunately won’t be around to participate in the excitement, but I encourage anyone interested in growing more local food to check it out (see sidebar).

Edible Park

I forgot to mention in my last post that the idea of extending the mini-orchard in Treat Commons Community Garden into the surrounding park is moving ahead. I talked to two of the three women who are working on a design for their permaculture class and we had a lot of possibilities to explore. San Francisco is ready to have some edible plants especially trees planted in her parks. I am also curious to learn how progress is going on the other two permaculture class projects, the roof-top garden on the Chronicle building and the empty lot on Potrero Hill. I was told by someone visiting here who live in Chicago that they have a lot of rooftop gardens there and that the city sells honey from bee hives located on top of City Hall.

More Photos

In the Secret Garden learning double digging…

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