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PBS – Bill Moyers sits down with Michael Pollan – 5 acre White House garden – Urban gardens in New York


Interview with gardener at Hands and Heart Garden in New York as seen in the Bill Moyers interview with Michael Pollan. Link to video interview here.

From the transcript from the video:

BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting that the president should rip up the South Lawn?
MICHAEL POLLAN: Not all of it. Not all of it.
BILL MOYERS: All right, say five acres.
MICHAEL POLLAN: Five acres. They’ve got 17 acres to play with. I don’t know exactly how much. But I’m saying five acres. Put in a garden, organic garden. Hire a good farmer to grow food there. I think that that would send a powerful message. You know, this has happened before. Eleanor Roosevelt put a victory garden in, in the White House in 1942.

BILL MOYERS: …during second world war

MICHAEL POLLAN: It was over the objections of the Department of Agriculture, who thought it was going to hurt the food industry if people started growing food at home. You know, God forbid.

BILL MOYERS: Some things never change

MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, I know. So they were on the wrong side of that issue, too. But she persisted. And she said, “This is really important for the war effort. I want to encourage people to grow food.” And she put in this garden. And by the end of the war, there were 20 million victory gardens in America.

People were ripping up their lawns, planting vegetables, raising chickens, and by the end of the war, they were producing 40 percent of the fresh produce in America was being produced in home gardens. So it’s not trivial, it could make a tremendous contribution, especially in hard times.

BILL MOYERS: We have some people right here in urban New York who, themselves, are growing gardens. And I want to show you a short film we produced in honor of your presence here today.


BILL MOYERS: The East New York section of Brooklyn is a cornucopia of fast and cheap food – healthy options are hard to find. There are restaurants, easy on the palate but hard on the arteries. There are corner delis, they offer some basics, but it’s processed food that fills the shelves. And the grocery stores here come and go, taking their produce with them. Residents must travel miles to reach the nearest supermarket.

WOMAN: The market is open!

BILL MOYERS: But each Saturday, the East New York farmers market offers some much needed relief.

VENDOR: That’s very good. Right?

BILL MOYERS: The market’s appetizing array of food comes from just outside the city and just around corner. From sweet to savory, land to sea.

DENNIS DAVE CARGILL: This is a baby blue fish. This tastes excellent.

BILL MOYERS: People say it’s worth the wait.

CLAUDINA WILLIAMS: It’s a different taste. When it’s fresh from the tree on the table, it’s delicious!

SARITA DAFTARY: We have a great market, and you know, I think when people come and visit us, they’re surprised that it’s here. They’re surprised that it’s in East New York.

BILL MOYERS: Sarita Daftary heads up the market, started ten years ago by the non-profit United Community Centers. It’s been a welcome source of pride – and nutrients – in a tough neighborhood better known for its crime stats than its crop yields.

SARITA DAFTARY: Food that comes from the ground that is in its most whole form is much better for you than food that’s processed, or packaged. And food that’s grown by small scale farmers, and especially organic farmers, tends to be more nutritious.

BILL MOYERS: Some of the freshest vegetables here were picked just hours ago from land a few short blocks away. Jeanette Ware has been gardening here for the past two years.

JEANETTE WARE: We’re going to be harvesting some herbs, some oregano, some collard greens. Some string beans and some beets.

BILL MOYERS: Jeanette and her husband James start each day in the dirt.

JEANETTE WARE: It’s fun. It’s hard, but it’s fun. It gets your back hurting, but it’s good for your heart and it’s a good feeling. You are digging in the natural earth and you are producing something for everybody to enjoy and be healthy.

BILL MOYERS: Gardening satisfies James’ itch to return to his South Carolina roots.

JAMES WARE: I was sitting up there listening to the birds one morning, and then it just got back in my blood, farming, from when I was a kid.
BILL MOYERS: Before this land was an urban oasis it was an urban dump. Farmers market organizers reclaimed the space and cleaned it up. It’s now known as the Hands and Heart community garden. Anyone can rent plots here for a small fee.

See more about Hand and Heart Garden here.

JEANETTE WARE: These are hot, you want some? These are twelve for a dollar.

BILL MOYERS: For the Wares, what started as hobby has quickly turned into a small business. From their stand, they help fuel their community with home-grown vitamins, minerals and good cheer.

JEANETTE WARE: Hello, I like that hat.

BILL MOYERS: Hazel Smalls is on the hunt for organic produce.

HAZEL SMALLS: We are pretty healthy eaters, so we are into a lot of fruits and vegetables. I usually get the frozen because they last longer, but once I found out about the market here I said, let me check it out. I can always take the collared greens, clean them, cut them up and freeze them.

BILL MOYERS: Hazel keeps an eye on what her daughter eats. Fortunately, Cheyenne prefers pears to junk food.

CHEYENNE SMALLS: My mother lets me eat candy only like Saturday, or just Saturday, because she doesn’t want me to get diabetes, because it’s very painful so I know that I don’t want to eat too much candy.

BILL MOYERS: Many of the chronic diseases that plague the country today – like diabetes – are linked to diet. Unfortunately, East New Yorkers know this all too well. Starting with the Wares themselves – both Jeanette and James are diabetic, and so are many of their customers.

WOMAN 1: I’m anemic, diabetic, my cholesterol is high.

WOMAN 2: I watch sugar and salt and fat. That’s the three main things because of cholesterol. I’m diabetic.

BILL MOYERS: There’s a health crisis in East New York. One in six adults here suffers from diabetes – that’s nearly twice the New York City average. Nearly one out of three is obese. The primary cause of premature death here is heart disease. Over the past ten years, hospitalization for the condition has increased by 35 percent. So food here can be a simple matter of life and death, and people like Claudina Williams need the market for food that won’t make them sick.

CLAUDINA WILLIAMS: You have to find it, it doesn’t matter how much it costs because that’s your health.

BILL MOYERS: Claudina uses coupons to help ease the expense of eating right. A number of states, including New York, encourage low-income people to shop at farmers markets by accepting food stamps and distributing free food vouchers to senior citizens and moms.

SARITA DAFTARY: People in low-income communities, people everywhere deserve the same quality of life, a great quality of life

BILL MOYERS: Back at the Hands and Heart community garden, James and Jeanette Ware bring this year’s growing season to a close.

JEANETTE WARE: I have customers that come every week without fail to get fresh food, so I’m going to really, really miss them. And they ask me, “You’re not going to keep growing stuff in the hot house or something for the winter we can come to the garden and buy?” They’re going to really miss them, and I’m going to miss them too.

BILL MOYERS: Next year, the Wares hope to build a children’s garden and they’ll grow even more of the produce their customers crave in a new hot house. It’s all part of their master plan.

JAMES WARE: My dream is to sell to stores, delis, that will in turn feed the community. And many, multiplied by others that are doing the same thing, we can eventually feed the community fresh grown produce.

Link to Bill Moyers video interview with Michael Pollan (part 2) here.