Saturday, March 14, 2015

They Have An Actual Name

OK, so I saw this today on Facebook.

Seen on Facebook. Reproduced under Title 17 Fair Use for
political editorial comment.

First Impressions

They're called "orchards".

They're all over the place in Florida, as I found out in the mid-nineties when I went to live there. Fortunately I went house-hunting down there at the right time of year... October. The grapefruit and orange trees in the back yard of one of the houses I looked at were well past their harvest date. The ground was littered with rotten and rotting fruit. It was slimy. It stank. It attracted flies and worms. Of course the real estate agent smiled and extolled the benefit of free fruit. I talked to the neighbors, and of course, they confirmed that the year was typically a whole lot of "ain't no fruit" followed by sudden frenzied "WTF am I going to do with all these *&$#&$& oranges?!?!" followed by garbage collection.

I didn't rent the house.

My first thought here was that I didn't really want to throw a damper on the ardor for this arbor, but a modicum of realism is called for if it's not to be shouted down as a gift from Satan shortly after it's planted. As a matter of necessity, to successfully feed anyone it would need to be a farm, no matter how they dress it up.

My parents owned a isn't "Free".

Again, that's not to say, "don't do it"... rather, it's to point out that the organizers seem to be asking the City to go to a lot expense for something that will bear fruit and/or nuts and feed people for a few weeks out of the year. IF their goal is actually to feed people and not simply stroke their emotions, they will do very well to investigate whether a "food forest" is the best and most efficient way to do that year-round.

So I decided to look into it some more.

The Beacon Food Forest Project 

A bit of web searching found the project. Go to the website and explore a bit, because it's an interesting thing they're doing here. 

Here's the actual site plan for the Beacon Food Forest project in Seattle.
From Reproduced under Title 17 Fair Use for political commentary. I'd have linked you straight to their graphic if it weren't so insanely huge. It takes ages to load and might cause a memory overflow.
My first impressions were based on the misleading infographic and what I already knew of forest gardening, which is a low-maintenance method of landscaping with a "natural" rather than "tended" appearance.  This project has little to do with forest gardening. As you can see, it's not particularly dense as forests go, it's not really an example of forest gardening. It's basically a city park with fruit trees and a reserved section for garden plots. It looks to be expensive in that way that only someone on the West coast could claim it's not. That expense is hidden behind donations (a-ok!) and government grants (not ok). To me, it resembles an art project as much as a serious attempt to feed anybody. To some extent it's the vegetable equivalent of a petting zoo. That in itself isn't a problem either, but it does show that their logic is buried under mounds of emotional manipulation that should never be necessary.

As far as I can tell, the term "food forest" is very fashionable right now because it's really marketable among seven-year-old kids. And let's face it, most of the website's materials are about emotional marketing. And as it is in part an educational endeavor, a lot of it is targeted at about a seven-year-old emotional level. But I'm an adult. I like to teach children new things, such as "the proper name for a 'food forest' is 'orchard'," so my grandchildren don't descend into the world of Idiocracy. I like things to make more than emotional sense.

Fortunately this does, though I have to supply my own arguments to some extent. It's not going to feed people year round, but you don't right now... improvement is better than no improvement, and half a loaf is better than none. It will be labor-intensive, but the splitting up into multiple plots spreads it around, and enough people of Seattle seem willing to do it... for now. I know from experience that farming is difficult, but as people drop out others should replace them.

If they're willing to work at those plots and give the food away then more power to them. This must be done altruistically or not at all if the "free food for anyone and everyone" communistic goal is to be achieved. In other words, you can't complain that 'vultures' descended on your crop and carried away the literal fruits of your labor. Under a 2010 ordinance Seattle residents can already farm on their own property if they would rather raise the food for personal use or sell it (see below), so the only thing that bothers me is the funding model.

To me, public support means I either worked at it with my hands or I donated towards it directly. PBS gets public support from viewers like me. To community organizers, though, public support is code that simply means, "don't complain when we ask for government funding", and that's exactly what it looks like here, to large extent.

The fact of the project doesn't bother me, I'd support such a thing in a heartbeat. If the goal were primarily feeding people I'd find it far more efficient to support professional local farmers who do that well, 24/7, and deserve to get paid for it. But as noted this has educational benefits as well as access to arable land for apartment dwellers and others who would like to garden but haven't the space.

The fact of the government funding bothers me immensely, and not least of all because it undermines the entire premise. "Free to anyone and everyone"?  Wrong. Paid for by everyone at gunpoint.

Like I said, I'd donate in a heartbeat, willingly. But I hate being robbed and then being told that the things purchased with my money are "free". That's a bad way to build trust. The most likely response is, "If you're robbing me already, why should I donate anything else?"


This 2010 story is far more exciting to me, and I'm using this story as an example because it's also in Seattle. I wouldn't want you to think I have it in for them...
SEATTLE – As part of the 2010 Year of Urban Agriculture, the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 116907 that supports the rapidly growing local food movement. The ordinance updates the City’s Land Use code governing urban agriculture uses, including allowing "urban farms" and "community gardens" in all zones, with some limitations in industrial zones. Also, residents will now be able to sell food grown on their property.
Idiocy commonly abounds when it comes to government and homeowner association restrictions on urban gardening, and the many government impediments to selling or distributing the results.

Kudos to Seattle for lowering some of those barriers. I only wish they weren't doing it wrong. This being the purported "home of the free", we shouldn't pass laws to permit people to grow food... we should instead eliminate the absolute insanity represented by laws and regulations that prohibit it! No one at any level of government should have that authority. 


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