If you live in the heart of San Francisco, or in most other larger cities in the U.S., you know what it means to be pressed for space. So much of city living is compact - from Smart cars to Murphy beds. It's hard to imagine what it might be like to have a yard that needs mowing or shrubs that need trimming. Even more so, it's hard to imagine keeping a garden, nurturing fruit trees and growing actual food.
One of the many things I love about the foodie culture in San Francisco is that it's creative. Sure, we boast some of the best restaurants in the nation and some of the most innovative chefs. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that we are a culture that values food and wine as much as art, our sports teams or museums. We're committed to this "food thing," no matter how challenging.
One organization that truly fosters this love affair is CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Among many other things, CUESA is famous for its role in the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, a bi-weekly mecca of local produce and delicacies. In addition to many of the monthly events at the Farmer's Market, CUESA also offers weekly public lectures centered around (you guessed it) sustainable eating choices.
Two weeks ago I attended R.J. Ruppenthal's talk about growing your own food in urban environments. His new book, "Fresh Food From Small Spaces" proves how easy it is to grow some of your own produce at home, even if you live in a studio apartment without any outdoor space. He presented a number of different urban environments and explained how one could plant fruit trees, vegetable plants and even keep chickens in this densley-packed city.
I learned so much and left completely empowered to take a stab at this whole "growing thing" this spring. I'm going to start easy with bean sprouts & wheatgrass, both of which can be grown with almost zero sunlight above your refridgerator. I would ideally like graduate to string beans, tomatoes and a potted strawberry bush on the back steps. Ruppenthal claims that you can grow up to 15% of your food intake within the confines of your own home if you put the effort into it.
Whether we're ready to truly acknowledge it now or not, our country is on the brink of an incredible food crisis (read any of Michael Pollen's stuff and you'll commit to growing 100% of your food). I'm not saying we should all abandon our huge chain supermarkets or give up the salty boxed snack products. But I think that if we can each grow something (as small as sprouts above the 'fridge!), we're increasing our conscious eating habits. We're spreading the awareness that our food comes from somewhere and we need to care where that "somewhere" is.
Plus, aside from eating delicious fresh veggies, there are few things more satisfying the digging into a big pot of soil and getting your hands dirty with the earth. When was the last time you felt mud under your nails?