Urban Farming in the Highlands of Lynn

           When most people think of a farm they imagine a rural, barely populated side of the country that only farmers tend to. This stereotype couldn’t be any further from the truth. At the Ford School garden, we intend to get the entire community involved in the production of organic, local food for the whole neighborhood. It’s silly to think that we’re going to change the entire world alone. We can only show the right path through our actions so that we may act as a catalyst for others to make a positive change themselves. If we expect a decent life for future generations, we need to address the problems we’re facing and make changes accordingly.

students feet at Ford SchoolGarden

One of the major problems we currently face is the way our society manages food. From poor eating habits to starving populations, it’s clear that we’re going in the wrong direction. The epidemic in obesity and diabetes in children is proving to be a big fat problem. Unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyles are the primary cause for this trend. Obesity is the nation’s second leading cause of preventable death killing 300,000 a year.

The cost of treating obesity-related ailments in 2008 was $147 billion. Curbing this epidemic is key not only to ensuring a healthier future for Americans, but also to reining in health costs, which has become a major issue in today’s political arena. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a program to address obesity on a community level. Key initiatives include encouraging communities to build schools within walking distance of students’ homes and making it easier for people to get access to healthful foods. The Ford School Garden is already at the forefront of achieving this programs goals.

Our way of thinking can be summed up by an anonymous Chinese poet who wrote, “By sowing a seed, you will harvest once. By planting a tree, you will harvest tenfold. By educating the people, you will harvest one hundredfold.” Education is our primary weapon against the food related problems of the world today, but we’re not just talking about it; we’re taking action. The kids of the Ford School are very familiar with the garden. Classrooms visit it throughout the school year, and in summer school programs, to learn how to make a food-rich garden in their own homes.

Although the children are our priority, everyone is welcome in. Neighbors often visit, attracted by the array of vivid colors of fruit, vegetables and flowers that are spread throughout the garden. Learning is not limited to children so we encourage all visitors to make their own garden at home, but if space is limited they’re welcome and encouraged to plant their own vegetables in our community garden. We even give our food away for free, only asking that the receivers educate themselves and support our movement for local, organic farms.

Organic, local, and renewable; how do we do it? Other than the grant money and a supportive crew and community, the need for change is the drive that propels us to continue our efforts. Pesticides and herbicides are harmful to the environment and our health, which is why we’re completely organic. If you’re eating non-organic celery today, you may be ingesting 67 pesticides with it, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group. This is very alarming when combined with the fact that children exposed to higher levels of a type of pesticide found in trace amounts on commercially grown fruit and vegetables are more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children with less exposure, according to a study which appeared in the journal Pediatrics in May 2010.

Eight out of the twelve “Dirty Dozen”, (fruits and vegetables which contain 40-67 pesticides per serving), are grown right here at the garden, with absolutely no pesticides. However, going natural doesn’t mean we give up high production. More than thirty different varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown in the garden including strawberries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, beans, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, onions and tomatoes. And it’s all right next door. Why local? The cost of transportation is a large percentage of the price of non-local food. This includes the fossil fuels that the transport vehicles use, which contribute to the pollution of our environment.

Local food is also much fresher and of better quality than non-local food. As we continue to develop more urban areas, we must learn to grow food there as well. Helping each individual in the community turn their unused backyards full of grass and weeds into luscious gardens full of fruits and veggies is our ultimate goal. However, we can only plant the seed. It’s up to you to let it grow.

Nick Chum, Andy Harding,

November 10th, 2010