Urban Agriculture is a bit of a buzzword, but I see much more theorizing about it then I see it being done. But a new organization called Lots of Food is changing that. I had a chat with Patty Love, the progenitor of Lots of Food, to find out more.
(RocShare) Who are you and what do you do?
(Lots of Food) Patty Love. I am passionate about permaculture design and, in addition to developing my suburban homestead to reflect that, I consult and design as the owner of Barefoot Edible Landscape and Permaculture, am the Program Director of Rochester Permaculture Center through which I teach and give tours, and am the Program Director for Lots of Food, which plants public food forests in Rochester and the surrounding ‘burbs.
(RS) Those all sound like awesome projects! But for now, the one I am most interested in is Lots of Food. How did that get started? What gave you the idea?
(LOF) Well, it was kind of a quest to answer to some evolving questions. It started with the recognition that climate change and dwindling fossil fuel supplies were prodding me toward creating a truly sustainable lifestyle. I also saw that many aren’t thinking of that at all and may be very desperate for food at some point. Then some increased community awareness and activism lead me to realize that many already don’t have access to abundant and healthy food and at least some of those folks were not likely to be in a permaculture class any time soon because they’re more focused on day to day survival. That lead me to ask/pray for a way to help those who are food insecure. For about a year, I explored a different idea to help and finally realized that wasn’t in flow for me. Then someone sent me a Ted Talk by Pam Warhurst about The Incredible Edible Project and I knew immediately that was what I needed to do. I could do it right now with what I have and what I know. That’s a short version of the long story about the genesis of the idea.
(RS) That’s really interesting. How long was that process? Did you start getting inklings of ideas years ago or was this all in the past year or so ?
(LOF) Well, it’s taken me almost 49 years to grow into the person I am today and to have these thoughts. So I can’t say how long except it’s the work of a lifetime. When I was a teen, I was keenly interested in environmental issues, the Native American belief that everything had a spirit, and was growing food and flowers. Rushville, where I grew up, has a large percentage of folks living in rural poverty though I didn’t know it at the time. In my 20s, I finished college and did my stint as a Material Girl right alongside Madonna. Then, in my early 30s, I started to get back to nature and simplicity. Becoming a mother at 35 opened up my compassion in a new way that allowed me to see the suffering of others and want to help. In terms of the genesis of Lots of Food, I saw the Ted Talk last winter around Winter Solstice and it was just so clear. I drafted an 11 page document outlining my whole vision and held a public meeting in early March to share the vision and ask who else wanted to play. 45 people came to that meeting and nearly all filled out the resource assessment form. A few weeks later, in April, we held the first Core Team and Guild Team meetings with those who expressed an interest in a leadership role and then got right to work.
(RS) Is that document still around?
(LOF) Yes, I have it. It needs some updating to reflect what I’ve learned over the last 6 or so months. I have a shorter 4 page version that I sometimes send to someone when I’m introducing Lots of Food - such as some of the plants and materials donors we’ve been blessed to meet.
(RS) Well maybe this article will encourage someone to become one of those donors! With Lots of Food, or personally, what impact do you hope to have in Rochester? What does “success” look like for you and your organization?
(LOF) The Lots of Food mission reads: Lots of Food creates and supports turning disused land into edible landscapes and utilizes appropriate technology to make visible the web of connection in our local food communities from dirt to fork. My personal mission reads: gathering and sharing resources and information that regenerates my own and others’ abundant existence and vibrant well-being.
So together, if I and the Lots of Food team can long-term get enough public food forests in the ground to have a significant impact on increasing food security, improving the natural environment, and improving the well being of those who struggle in Rochester, that will be satisfying. Inspiring others to do the same would be very satisfying - and that is already happening in small ways. I’d say that we’re already successful in that we’ve done “something.” We’re growing people as much as food, really. We have 12 gardens underway this year. This winter we’ll set our goals for 2014 and beyond. I’m pretty passionate and hard working so I need to check in with the team to see what they’d like to accomplish in 2014. I don’t want to burn out our volunteers. At the same time, I know that I’ll continue this work as long as I can. It feels so amazing every time I am part of accomplishing another garden.
(RS) I hope you can continue this work for years, it’s great work! Last question: How do you describe the Sharing Economy?
(LOF) I see the sharing economy as our next evolution for humanity. The sharing has already begun. Developing the sharing economy is one of the most powerful and positive possibilities for usage of the internet and digital communications. The ethics of permaculture are: Earth Care, People Care, and Resources Share. So when we can share resources in ways that regenerate the health of The Earth and increase the wellbeing of all people then we are building an economy that is truly resilient and abundant. Sharing is also good for us in that, when we can let go of our fear of not having enough and give things away (food, stuff, money, hugs, time), we can each also be incredibly selfish as we revel in the good feelings that sharing generates in our being - or at least that’s true for me. I am thankful for all of the young people, like yourself, who are really innovators in the sharing economy. We all need your creativity, beginner’s mind, and energy - along with your technical skills!
(RS) Thanks! And thanks for the great answers, and for your work in Rochester!