From Street to Street Farmer

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.

Among the crew of eleven people, not one of them had ever grown anything before. Yet they’d shown up and their hands were getting dirty. One was a man named Kenny, our very first hire. Kenny had worked with Seann at United We Can and jumped at the chance to help develop a neighborhood farm.

I came to this work with my own package of pre-conceptions and judgments. When I met Kenny, my first impression of him fit every stereotype about drug addicts and what they look like. Sporting a wispy, slightly graying goatee, and wearing multiple chains around his neck, he was desperately thin, hollow-eyed, with a shaved head and a fast-talking skittishness that reeked of crack or speed.

I came to learn that, for someone who has been through hell and has had so much bad-assed shit happen in his life, Kenny is a real softie inside. When ladybugs show up on the produce while it is being washed and prepared for sale Kenny will go to great lengths to save every last one from drowning.

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

Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia―one of the worst urban slums in North America―who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood. It is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing others as a way to heal our world and ourselves.

Michael Ableman is a farmer, author, photographer and urban and local food systems advocate. Michael has been farming organically since the 1970′s and is considered one of the pioneers of the organic farming and urban agriculture movements. Ableman is a frequent lecturer to audiences all over the world, and the winner of numerous awards for his work.

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