Michael Ableman | Blog
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If there is one thing I’ve come to know throughout my career, one essential element in manifesting a vision in the world is the very powerful act of clearly writing down one’s goals and intentions in great detail. Stating one’s intention is not some psycho-spiritual...

coverlarge-4Excerpted fromStreet Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016). My work in Watts and my recent urban farming in Vancouver have left me with few illusions about the challenges we face in our effort to help grow these communities. I’ve shared my experiences with Seann; he’s done the same for me. And we sometimes encounter the reality that people are no easier to recover than the land buried under layers of pavement. Ours remains an imperfect endeavor.

coverlarge-4Excerpted from “Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016).

Market growers too often view radishes as unremarkable, easy to grow, whatever vegetables. Their high-speed, forty-day seed-to-harvest cycle, throw-em-in-the-ground in between slower crops flexibility make them just a sideshow. Too often they play a two-bit part that tends to feature the more flamboyant and prima donna leading melon, tomato, or pepper.

coverlarge-4Excerpted from “Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016). It’s a big day, our first large harvest since our little fledgling farm was planted, and Seann, Kenny and I, together with the rest of our newly-hired crew are gathering rainbow chard, lacinato kale, French breakfast radish, and collard greens for the afternoon market held a few blocks away in front of the train station.

coverlarge-4Excerpted from “Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016). The question of what to grow is one that requires some understanding of the community you are serving, the level of skills you have as a farmer, existing markets, local climate, scale, availability of skilled labor, and access to and cost of water.

coverlarge-4Excerpted from Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016). The lot where our farm sits is attached to the Astoria Hotel. Built in 1912, the Astoria was once a prominent feature in this neighborhood, but like the neighborhood that surrounds it, the building has drifted into aging and decay. Now the Astoria is one of several hotels owned by one of the city’s most notorious slumlords. For $425 per month you can get an eight-by-ten single room on one of five floors of the hotel. The rooms are rough: stained carpets, peeling paint, droves of bedbugs, and an ongoing cacophony of raw, uncensored life filtering through the walls. Pig farmer and convicted mass murderer Robert Pickton hung out at this hotel, reportedly abducting prostitutes that he later murdered at his farm outside of the city. Thirty-two women from this neighborhood were killed by Pickton. Some were last seen at the Astoria.

coverlarge-4Excerpted from Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontierby Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016). I remember standing in that parking lot on our first day of planting with four hundred four-by-fifty-foot boxes full of soil waiting for the first seed or transplant. The transplants I’d brought to Sole Food were grown on my family farm. “Hardening off’ transplants is a practice that normally involves gradually introducing tender plants to cold and sun, allowing for the transition from protected greenhouse to open field. As we unloaded the plants from my van that day I had the thought that we ought to have piped the sound of sirens, rap music, and car horns into their protected rural greenhouse space, before introducing them to this harsh urban landscape.

coverlarge-4Excerpted from “Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman (Chelsea Green, 2016).

I have been developing the following Urban Food Manifesto over the last ten years. Some of the ideas may sound radical; others will likely seem terribly obvious. Some are practical, some more ideological, but either way they are focused on the municipal and on individual ways to address what I consider to be some of the most prominent challenges in how we feed ourselves.