November 1, 2010

DIY Utopias: Growing Against All Odds

Sketch for mural by Katherine Gressel

GrowingCities will be attending tonight's DIY Utopias: Growing Against All Odds. The event is a part of a current exhibition at Old Stone House in Park Slope, Brooklyn Utopias: Farm City, and consists of four different workshops that cover a variety of topics
related to food production in the city.

The exhibition was curated by artist Katherine Gressel and Derek Denckla of The Greenest and features work from Tattfoo Tan, Work AC, Katherine Gressel, Mary Mattingly, Hugh Hayden, and Kim Holleman, among many others, as well as temporary outdoor installations by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis of Truck Farm.

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis show off their Truck Farm

The exhibition seeks a vision for a future Brooklyn. What is the role of artists in shaping an ideal Brooklyn? The invited artists were requested to respond to the idea of urban agriculture - or the practice of farming in or around a city - as a “utopian” solution for Brooklyn. How successful are Brooklyn’s existing urban farming ventures, and what new innovations or collaborations are possible? How can the borough’s rich agrarian history inform its greener future? What are the questions of scale, universal access, and feasibility of urban farming that might inform the future of food production in Brooklyn?

Tonight's event, also at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, will feature hands-on skillshare with activist-artists in an intimate gallery setting. Moderated by experienced DIY-artist Mary Mattingly (of the Waterpod), four artists/environmental leaders will demonstrate that anyone can contribute to the urban farming movement, turning “Utopian” vision into concrete action. In addition to learning various farming techniques and processes, participants will leave knowing that even the busiest of urban dwellers can grow food in their own homes. A description of the four workshops can be found at the end of the article.

As urban food production grows in popularity, critics continue to question the financial feasibility of the industry over the long term. It is important for city dwellers to know that they can grow their own food in their own apartment. While cities will most likely never grow all of their food within city limits, the success of many urban farms over the past decade or more provide us with at least some assurance of financial feasibility.

Tonight's event aims to show New Yorkers that the urban food movement is about more than just commercial feasibility. It's also about reconnecting with our food source on a personal level and understanding the natural rhythms of our planet and ecology. It is about knowing what we put in our bodies and making informed decisions about what we consume. It's about sharing good food and new experiences with friends and family and making these practices and ideas accessible to everyone.

If you can't make it to the event tonight, check out the exhibition, which is up at Old Stone House until December 12th.

Sketch for mural by Katherine Gressel

Description of the four workshops:

1) Rooftop Micro-Farming: Frieda Lim: Slippery Slope Farms

Frieda is an artist, activist and agrarian. She will demonstrate how to build and install simple windowsill or rooftop planters capable of yielding food with simple materials, little effort and low maintenance, using Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPs). Slippery Slope Farm is a modern urban sub-irrigated rooftop micro-farm located in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Lim designed the project to be simple to install, easy to maintain and capable of replication by anyone with a little space and a desire to grow their own food.

2) Rainwater Harvesting: Andrew Casner, GrowNYC

Andrew will demonstrate how to install a rainwater harvest system at your home or apartment, saving potable tap water for people. Andrew, also known for his Compost Painting contribution to the “Brooklyn Utopias: Farm City” exhibit, works on a crew that installs rainwater catchment for community gardens.

3) Permaculture & Compost: Claudia Joseph

Claudia holds a diploma of permaculture from Permaculture Institute, U.S.A. and has taught and practiced permaculture for 15 years, on both coasts. She manages the farm that surrounds Old Stone House Historic Center. She practices food foresting and small scale intensive gardening.

If you have ever wondered what “permaculture” is about and how you can get involved, Claudia is the right person to see. She also specializes in soil building and bio-remediation techniques, explaining some simple steps that you can take at home to turn food waste into “black gold.” She has taught at Merritt College (CA), the Berkeley Ecology Center, Oakland Botanical Demonstration Gardens, BBG and NYBG among other places.

4) School Farm Planning & Planters: Aki and Ron Baker: Adopt-A-Farmbox

Adopt-A-Farmbox will lay out their civic engagement strategies for organizing support for school farms by using the process of building simple planter boxes to catalyze community and to connect around growing food. Adopt-A-Farmbox builds and donates “farmboxes” to schools in New York City, including several schools throughout Brooklyn. Adopt-A-Farmbox is a volunteer-based, grass-roots campaign started in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and has become an exemplar project integrating community development with education, food, creativity and agriculture.

Sketch for mural by Katherine Gressel

Check out our previous article: Detroit Reassembled?

* The photos and artwork in this article are not by GrowingCities

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