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San Diego’s urban farmers

Photo by Don Kohlbauer. See complete series of beautiful photos – and audio here.

Meet the pioneers planting crops in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers

By Erin Glass,
San Diego News Network
March 18, 2009

About a year ago, Karon Klipple, a mathematics professor at San Diego City College, took a long, hard look at the campus lawn.

With all the talk about global warming, the benefits of eating local and organic food, not to mention San Diego’s drought worries, it seemed the land and resources might be put to better use. So Klipple, who is chair of City College’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, founded Seeds at City, a thriving sub-acre farm smack dab on the downtown campus.

“Industrial agriculture isn’t going to support us indefinitely because it’s unsustainable,” she said while walking in between rows of oak leaf lettuce and Chioggia beets on a cool Tuesday morning. “There’s no way we can continue to use more resources to create fewer.”

Once championed as the end of famine, industrial agriculture is now taking heat for its monolithic waste production and energy consumption. Others criticize the negative dietary habits it encourages or enforces, citing obesity and diabetes as a social effect of corn subsidies. One has to be a conscious consumer to avoid food with the nearly ubiquitous ingredient high fructose corn syrup. The sugary liquid substance makes an appearance not just in obvious junk food, but in products with a healthy image such as yogurt, tomato sauce and whole grain bread.

It seems the age of superabundance has a lesson for our appetites: More is not necessarily more satisfying. Especially when paid for by the health of both the eater and the environment.

Klipple is just one of the many local individuals and groups that are experimenting with producing their own fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry and fish within city limits or in their backyard. This breed of urban farmers enjoys not only an increased amount of control on the quality of food they eat, but also over the environmental effects of the production of that food.

The idea is that farming doesn’t require a field. And in some cases, not even dirt.

“My goal is to teach people they can grow food in really alternative spots,” Paul Maschka said.

Maschka and Julia Dashe are the two urban farmers directing shovels at Seeds at City. Maschka spent 17 years as lead organic horticulturist at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, where he helped them turn their practices organic. Now at Seeds at City, he’s got his eye on a second site next to an entrance of the 163.

As a member of San Diego Food Not Lawns, a grassroots organization that promotes change regarding food and land issues, he knows just how many locals are reconsidering their yard use.

“We’re bombarded with calls by people interested in edible landscaping,” he said. “There is an interest- oh my gosh -like crazy.”

Still, while it’s one thing to splurge on a dozen seed packages during a weekend bout of enthusiasm, it’s quite another to see the fruits through harvest. Recent imagination has run wild with the possibilities. There are flourishing rice paddies in Tokyo’s underground bank vaults. Worldwide, architectural firms are dreaming up “farmscrapers,” sky-rise buildings meant to grow a city’s food in its very center. But is it really the future of eating? Could San Diego really be an edible town?

See the rest of this article here.

Seed at City urban farm website here.

1 comment

1 Nathan Hutcherson { 09.11.10 at 11:30 pm }

I just wanted to let all those who are intersted know that my services are available to any Southern California farmer with a rattlesnake or other reptile related issue.
The Reptile Removal Mission Statement: To protect the safety of both man and reptile in a highly populated region. The staggering rate of development in Southern California is quickly expanding into the remaining wilderness. It is inevitable that the ever growing human populace encounters wildlife as it engulfs the wild. It is our goal to minimize these encounters by safely relocating reptiles from rural dwellings and businesses to protected environments.