Agriculture is the New Golf

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a relaxing weekend. I spent a few fun days in Michigan where it was cold and they got their first snow. It also made me thankful that we are entering our “green” season, when the hills are verdant from a bit of rain, the air is clear and the mountains pop out like the latest 3-D release at the cineplex.

While food is so much on our minds at this time of year, I wanted to share this article from the LA Times about new housing developments that are being built around functioning organic farms. I guess it’s not a brand new idea, since the first such development they describe  in the article was founded in 1992  and it’s an update to the Garden Cities movement founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the U.K. in 1898 (which is an update to how people have been living since agriculture was invented, I suppose). I wonder if a version of this idea can be applied to urban infill areas instead of only rural and exurban areas. Hmmmm, maybe that is a potential subject for a thesis project for a budding landscape architect in Los Angeles?

For some semi-related photos, so this post doesn’t look naked, here are shots of some sunflowers, on Balboa Island in September. It seems that the owners of this house are waiting to collect the seeds to eat. I don’t know if I would classify Balboa Island as “urban”, but the housing density is pretty intense (at least the houses themselves, if not the number of people within them). Most houses have only a few inches of “land” to grow anything at all and I love that this family chose to grow something both beautiful and productive.

On a side note, Los Angeles is raising the price to rent a plot at one of its community gardens from $25 per year to $120 per year. That is certainly going to make it much less affordable for some people — probably the people who need it the most — to grow their own fresh, healthy food. Here is the LAT article on that subject.

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3 Responses to Agriculture is the New Golf

  1. Pingback: Agriculture is the New Golf

  2. James Overall says:

    Here in the UK allotments are a growing trend amongst a more urban dweller and many councils cannot hope to meet demand. Another side note that we find interesting here is the use of stalled development sites within cities for temporary agricultural use, both for pragmatic and artistic purposes.

    Many areas of the UK have a history steeped in agriculture and the growing of crops on land that has only over the last 100 years been subsumed into city limits establishes a historical depth and meaning to exposed landscapes that architecture could never hope to match.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi, James. So good to hear a voice from the UK on this issue. How exciting that this trend is strong there and that demand is outpacing supply (which in turn may increase supply as the councils and the public make decisions about how best to use and manage available land). The richness of the agricultural legacy in the UK must provide a great context for converting land back to the purpose of growing food or preserving open space.

      Here in Southern California, our “megalopolis” pretty much stretches from northern Los Angeles County all the way south to the border of Mexico and beyond into sprawling Tijuana. You can drive a couple of hundred miles (and that means drive in a car, since our public transportation is woefully inadequate) from one end to the other and pass through dozens of cities and towns that bleed seamlessly from one to the next with virtually no empty space in between. There are a few tiny exceptions.

      For a very interesting, and tragic, account of an attempt to use a “stalled development site within a city” to grow food, check out the documentary film “The Garden”. For years, it flourished in Los Angeles as one of the largest community gardens in the country at 14 acres. Then it was dismantled in a shameful display of politics, ego and greed. To this day, the large plot sits fenced off and full of weeds.

      In Detroit, a city that has been wracked by economic troubles for decades, large tracts of homes and commercial buildings have been abandoned and they are slowly decaying and returning to nature as they fill with local flora and small fauna. The current mayor has proposed a bold idea of demolishing up to 10,000 dangerous structures by 2013, helping to consolidate residents in smaller areas of the city though urban renewal efforts and basically returning the older, razed neighborhoods to open space. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

      Best, M

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