Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Victory Garden in Civic Center Plaza

I want to devote this post to the Victory Garden in Civic Center Plaza, which I find to be the greatest contribution Slow Food Nation had to San Francisco as a whole. Victory gardens, also known as war gardens or food gardens for defense, first came about during World Wars I and II as a response to the pressure on the food system brought on by the war efforts. These gardens produced food (vegetables, fruits, herbs, and livestock) and were planted at private residents as well as in public spaces-- Eleanor Roosevelt raised sheep on the White House front lawn in 1943. These victory gardens produced up to 40% of the food consumed nationally and helped to lower the cost of produce, thus allowing funds that would have been spent on food to advance the war effort in other areas.

The victory garden planted in front of the San Francisco Civic Center was funded by the City of San Francisco and redefines the "victory"
used in the gardens of WWI and WWII;
this garden, as well as other present victory gardens, was developed to increase urban sustainability. In the context of our food systems being stretched across longer and longer distances, the San Francisco Civic Center Victory Garden encourages SF residents to look increasingly local for their food supply. The resulting garden in Civic Center plaza was also aesthetically pleasing and biologically diverse. The circular beds included many local plants, included some rumored poison oak, as well as plants that have become staples of our California diet. In addition, a compost display could be found at the back, encouraging visitors to continue to reuse their food.

The San Francisco victory garden is also part of a larger movement of victory gardens that are encouraging citizens to look locally for their food. Additionally, there is a petition circulating to encourage the next president of the United States to plant a victory garden on the White House Lawn, hearkening back to Eleanor Roosevelt's time. Coupled with this movement, there is a growing network of people campaigning for the creation of edible landscapes, be it on the White House lawn or in your very own backyard.

In any event, the Victory Garden on City Hall's lawn was by far the most visible and accessible part of Slow Food Nation. San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom was also affected by having the front lawn of his office become an edible landscape and is now working on developing San Francisco's first food policy, to be released in the next several months. While trying to feed the entire city, including public schoolchildren, homeless people, jail inmates, and hospital patients with an all organic, locally grown diet via public funds seems a bit financially unrealistic, the thought to start working towards creating the infrastructure to produce our food locally is a great one.

Also, watch Roger Dorion's "Eat the View" video, his campaign to the next United States President to make the White House lawn a victory garden:

1 comment:

pd said...

best post yet. nice look in to the victory gardens history, and contemporary context for sf.