The most lasting change the hippies accomplished was in food. Tofu, tempeh, sprouts, and smoothies. Organic food and vegetarianism. Food coops. Even the revival of farmers' markets. Foodie culture can be traced right back to those dirty, greasy hippies. Ask Alice Waters.
In fact, you can trace a progression from civil rights through the antiwar movement into environmentalism straight through to urban gardens. Add in feminism too, as many of the spark plugs for reclaiming vacant lots were and are women. Boston Urban Gardeners, the Green Guerrillas in NYC, the Fruition Project in Santa Cruz, LA's South Central Community Garden and Tree People, all of these were early explorations in rebuilding community and ecology in urban environments.
The Sixties™ hippie energy went to ground, literally, in the mid-70s and grew flowers, vegetables, fruit. Almost unnoticed, those seeds we planted then are now bearing a bumper crop.
According to the 2000 Census, 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in cities or suburbs. Food travels 25 percent farther that it did in 1980, and fruits and vegetables spend up to 14 days in transit.
The figure I keep on hearing is that, on average, the food on your plate has to travel 1500 miles to get close to the end of your fork. In response, more and more people are beginning to grow more and more food closer to home.
For example, there's the Philly Orchard Project:
Philadelphia will become the "next great city" by rebuilding itself as an American refuge from expensive oil and gas... There are billions of dollars to be made by becoming the first American metropolis to grow most of its own food.
Thousands of acres of urban orchards here will multiply their harvest value, by creating many categories of related jobs and thus reducing the costs of crimefighting, jail building and incarceration.
They are proposing to turn thousands of vacant lots and hundreds of empty factories into gardens and orchards.
Hat tip to http://www.treehugger.com/...
Philly's going to have to work hard to surpass Burlington, VT and their decades-old headstart:
The nonprofit Intervale Foundation... manages about 300 acres in the Intervale as an organic farm incubator. Would-be farmers get their starts using the Foundation’s land, equipment, and technical expertise. Once they become proficient, they buy their own farm land in Vermont and make way for the next generation of farmers-in-training. The graduates become part of a mutual support system, in which they share marketing, knowledge, and farm equipment.
The Intervale is now home to 14 farms, including four community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations that supply food to 1,000 subscribing families. All told, Intervale supplies about 6 percent of Burlington’s food supply—up from 0.1 percent when the Foundation started and well along towards the goal of 10 percent.
Hat tip to http://www.yesmagazine.org/...
Expanding the concept further, a group called Plant Architects is proposing that Toronto rethink parking lots as growing spaces with green walls of plants instead of bare chain link fences, adding trees, porous asphalt surfaces and drainage channels to control stormwater runoff, and street furniture for traffic calming. They want to transform the 150 surface parking lots the city controls into pocket parks and new green spaces.
Hat tip to http://www.treehugger.com/...
Canada has an urban green thumb and a great resource to all asphalt gardeners in City Farmer, now in its 29th year and part of Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture. Last I heard, the Suffolk County Cooperative Extension office in Boston I used to organize community gardens for back in the day disappeared sometime during the Reagan Adminstration. [Reagan killed us.]
For those interested in digging into the history, by Laura Lawson traces a movement that stretches back to the 1880s. If all you know are the last few decades of community gardens or the Victory Gardens of WWII, this is probably a resource to learn much more.
On the other hand, "New York" has a report by Brooklynite Manny Howard who tried to grow all his food for the month of August in a farm he began in March in his own backyard.
In three weeks of eating nothing but Farm-fresh food, I lost 29 pounds, down from my pre-Farm weight of 234. Abs: That’s the upside of only two meals a day. The downside is the expense. Not counting my own labor, which was unending, I spent about $11,000 to produce what, all told, is barely enough to feed one grown man for a month. But I did learn something about food: Unless you really know what you’re doing, raising it is miserable, soul-crushing work. Eating food fresh from the farm, on the other hand, is delightful.
About once a year, I tell my farmer friends at the local farmers' market that they are the biggest gamblers in the world. They risk their livelihood every year on the weather, their skills, and a couple of pounds of seed. I believe farmers are heroes but gardeners have their rewards too. I get mine when I tuck into a bowl of fresh raspberries grown on the canes I planted on my community garden plot.
Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the USA. About 50% of the population grows something, if only a houseplant. In harder economic times, this percentage always increases. Growing your own is always a survival strategy. We start from a good base, even though only a minuscule proportion of the population is now directly involved in agriculture. As a boomer, I am only three generations separated from the farm and both my grandparents and parents gardened. They taught me and I thank them with every fresh tomato and raspberry I eat.