New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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A Farmer in the Parking Garage

One man’s parking garage is the same man’s garden — where he’s proving it’s possible to grow a significant portion of his own food at home, even in a San Francisco apartment building!

By Jon Brooks
August 4, 2010


It started three years ago with a single tomato plant. Today, he and his wife Ellen estimate that they grow 25-30 percent of their total food intake. Current crops include tomatoes, peas, blackberries, raspberries, basil, carrots, mushrooms and several types of lettuce, almost all cultivated in nine half-barrels of soil, tucked away in a corner of their San Francisco apartment’s parking garage. He is also growing sprouts in a couple of jars on his kitchen table.

Gene tells the story of his project’s germination (pun intended):

“When 9/11 happened, I thought a lot about what importance it had to me personally. At that time I was working mostly in theater and it just felt like sitting around memorizing lines wasn’t what I ought to be doing. I wanted to have my own actions be reflective of something positive with respect to what had happened. I was thinking about how oil and all the energy used in mass food production was one of the problems. That thought just evolved.”

Part of that evolution was a moment of clarity that came to him while looking at a package of frozen blueberries. “The blueberries came from Serbia,” he recalls. “I’m living in California and eating in my oatmeal blueberries shipped from Serbia. Finally, I got too bothered by my growing understanding of just what’s involved in buying a simple tomato to not do something.”

See the complete story here.


1 Lynn { 04.08.11 at 12:38 pm }

These stories are apt to inspire city-dwellers to try to be self-sustaining by growing a portion of what they eat. However, I have some concerns about urban air pollution and chemical spraying in cities. Couldn’t those factors degrade the quality of the produce and herbs grown in a city?

2 Connie Ryan { 05.03.11 at 1:38 am }

I love this story. I shows what ingenuity can do. How awesome to supplement your food source in this way.

3 Toni { 06.16.11 at 7:39 am }

Lynn raises an important question about city pollution affecting our gardens. This takes our food sustainability concerns to another level. We need to educate everyone about the effects of air pollution not only for our breathing but also the effect it has on growing our food, in backyards or nearby farm fields, not to mention the health of all trees and plants that affect the health of humans and the earth itself. We can join local organic/health groups that help educate neighborhoods and lobby local governments to put rules into effect that help this concern. No idling of engines is one to start with. Other ideas…..?