I have not yet begun my indoor garden within my dorm. After consulting with my partner in crime, Jason (the manager of Brunswick’s Pettiti Garden Center), I was informed to wait approximately four weeks before the last frost of the year.
I hate waiting.
I suppose for years I have waited for various things. When I was little I wanted one of those miniature cars to drive around the block. Of course, I never got it. That was the struggle of living in a single parent household during my childhood. I still act bitter today, although I do not actually feel resentment over something so pity. My mother worked far too hard for me to be anything but proud.
This is not me liking my past economic struggles with that of an entire population, specifically other minorities. Growing up I was instilled with the belief that what you want is not handed to you, but rather worked for. As I had gotten older, I obtained a job and worked for the material goods I wanted, I worked to be admitted into the Ohio State University, and I worked to ensure that I had the opportunity to be the best role model for my brothers.
But my story is not everyone’s story and I learned that through urban gardening. I was astounded by how centralized poverty could be and how a lack of income resulted in cheap food and a weakened attitude. I suppose that is why I worked so hard on that farm. It was an opportunity for children and young adults to see that change was possible.
Much like education, healthy food should be a basic human right. Yet there are so many root causes which pulls natural food from urban neighborhoods.
For one, the concentrated poverty results in the lack of supermarkets in surrounding areas. However, this poverty can be due to a multitude of reasons that are not addressed. Lack of job opportunities or transportation, lack of education, and increased drug and alcohol use pulls income out of inner cities.
Lack of education or situations which promote an individual’s strengths greatly decreases a city’s human capital. It is necessary for a population to obtain skills which allow them to compete in various marketplaces.
A defeated attitude based on the situations of the community also demolishes the opportunity of human rights in inner cities. I have spoken to individuals who feel nothing could be done about their situation.
This could further be seen through the lack of aid from state and local governments. When these individual’s refuse to aid in community projects, the city is left in a stagnant and broken position. Crime increases as a way to promote income. The individuals suffer.
This is what I believe to be the largest root cause. The fact that everyone turns a blind eye on those struggling.
That is why I have become so impassioned through urban gardening. It boosts the morale in the cities, teaches leadership abilities, and helps individuals find their self worth. Furthermore, it allows for families to receive healthy food and encourages the art of cooking within a community.
Urban farming has so many benefits for a community. It aids in economic development within a region, alleviates poverty, and increases the inclusion of current members. It also allows for a source of local produce and increases sustainability.
I believe that the greatest challenges in addressing this root cause is that it will take a lot of work to open the eyes of the government and fellow citizens. There is nothing people like to block out more than situations that are filled with dread. To many individuals, if it is not their city it is not their problem. However, I hope to encourage others to see the whole nation as their city and aid those in need just as they would a sick neighbor.
I also believe the current political climate is harmful. To many, those in impoverished neighborhoods should simply, “Stop being poor.” I take much issue to this. Without the correct psychological aid, the correct funding, and the end of systemic poverty in a neighborhood how can one stop being poor? Getting government support on issues such as urban farming will become much of an issue. When looking at the most current statement by the president, suggesting the removal of food stamps to canned goods, I worry that we have lost all compassion for those with less income. While receiving canned food allows for a more limited approach to what these consumers can and cannot buy, I am left saying that the food deficit will still remain in these communities. Canned foods are not as healthy as fresh produce. It contains a greater amount of salt and sugar, can contain BPA, and can even contain bacteria if not preserved properly. Furthermore, it does not address the human capital deficit. Rather than putting individuals to work, creating skills in the community, or starting up a local economy there is still the same reliance on a government system which sends out less than acceptable food to feed poor communities.
Currently, I know of 2 organizations addressing the issue of food deserts within poor communities. In my hometown, this was UpCycle Farm and here it is Franklinton Farms. However, many more exist within the state. In fact, there are numerous websites such as, Urban Farms of Central Ohio, which are dedicated to educating others about their beliefs and history.
There are regulations mentioned by Ohio’s EPA which can limit the spread of urban farming. For one, zoning regulations on the local level may deem urban agriculture to be unfit for the given area. Zoning also determines where structures, such as greenhouses, could be placed and whether or not composting is allowed in the area. Many Ohio jurisdictions do not see urban agriculture as land use category as well. Water costs and the cost to build the garden also play a large factor.
While not in Ohio, Maryland had passed a policy which provided a 150,000 dollar grant for the designing of a “food hub industry” which included an urban farm and food pantry. A similar movement was also seen in Minnesota the District of Columbia, Washington, and Missouri.
As I research more on the topic at hand, I am inspired by the compassion and respect drawn from agricultural programs. I hope that as I work through this project, I too will be able to aid in communities like the farmers I admire most.