Garden victories in San Francisco
In 2007, Garden for the Environment and city government collaborated with Victory Gardens 2007+. VG 2007+ provided starter kits, educational offerings, and a citywide seedbank (I love this idea) to help local gardeners grow in yards, window boxes, rooftops, and unused land. This year, VG 2008+ is aiming to establish 15 urban organic food gardens in SF. Inspired by War Gardens and Victory Gardens of WWI and WWII, the VG creators redefine Victory as “growing food at home for increased local food security and reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal.”
In July, VG 2008+ teamed up with Slow Food Nation on a large-scale, ornamental edible garden in Civic Center Plaza, on the same site as the city’s post-World War II gardens. The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden will remain open through September.
There has been some debate about the project. Garden Rant calls it a pretty publicity stunt and questions the value of a putting in a $180,000 garden for three months. I totally disagree with this argument, which echoes some of the petty resistance to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s installation of The Gates in Central Park. Such large-scale temporary projects–whether public art or public education–succeed brilliantly when they challenge us to experience familiar places anew. Counting dollars or beans is just not relevant.
Furthermore, the creators of SF’s new Victory Gardens are very responsible to the public. VG 2007/8+ has already instituted a series of citywide programs and small-scale garden installations that represent broad, deep, and personal efforts to improve urban agriculture. Slow Food Nation is using the project to teach and feed the city.
Demonstration gardens–from the National War Garden Commission’s WWI installation at Bryant Park to P.F.1 at P.S.1 to SFN Victory Garden–provoke and inspire and then make room for the next big idea. Not unlike a garden that sprouts, blooms, provides, and fades away until we come up with something different next year.