(photo by Zandy Mangold via the New York Post)
Is it a new hipster trend in NYC? Should be we laughing at their overalls and Sally Jesse Rafael glasses or should we be following their lead? Who knows, but I am confused by the tone of an article titled “Meet the New York Hillbillies” that came out this morning.
Today’s New York Post article about Urban “Farming” (that I am featured in) simultaneously mocks and encourages folks who grow food and raise livestock within the city limits. I can’t figure it’s angle out…are they for us or against us? Inevitably, some good will come of it either way. People will see that growing your own food really is possible anywhere, and ultimately that is all I ever want to convey. This is something we all have the right to and can do it anywhere there is water, light and in most cases, soil.
I manage to sound a bit like a pompous douchebaggie at points in the article so I’d like to pontificate over this little statement before anyone calls me out for being one. (UPDATE: I’ve already had some unsavory, mad people posting to my comments saying I, and my kind are”the worst thing about NY” in response to the following comment…)
“I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but New York needs more people like me. It doesn’t need more musicians who think their band is the best . . . It needs more people who are going to bring something new to the city.”
This was taken a bit out of context, though not entirely. The basic sentiment is accurate. I moved here because I wanted the direct contact to culture, good food and people but I didn’t feel as though it meant I couldn’t bring my love of gardening and beekeeping with me. I don’t think it’s fair that NYC is painted as a giant playground for 20-something artists & musicians or a Wall St. investment bankers and Upper West Side housewives paradise. I do think that New York could benefit from more backyard food growers and urban farmers, culturally. I wish there were more of us, frankly. I do, however, recognize that people have been growing food in NYC for as long as NYC has been around. People like Karen Washington have been empowering communities to grow their own food since I was a little shrimp running around in my Dukes of Hazzard PJs and pissing my bed at night. There were people before her doing it too. It’s part of the history of all cities. Only until the past 50 years have people become so distanced from the source of their food that they find growing it in a backyard or empty lot or rooftop to be ridiculous. We had forgotten but we are starting to remember again.
But growing food is not ridiculous. It’s fun! The food tastes better when it’s harvested fresh. Growing it makes me feel strong and capable. It connects me with people and it’s a way for me to show love to the people I care for. It makes me HAPPY! I know I am not the only person that feels this way. I am surrounded by people in New York that share the sentiment. Growing food is as much about community and SPIRIT as it is about anything else. Launch your snarky commentary at that if you’d like. I don’t mind. If you find deriving joy from digging around in the dirt something to be worthy of mockery, then I feel a bit of sadness for you. You are missing out on an essential bit of what makes us human; a simple, tangible connection to the world. It’s something to be celebrated and enjoyed and shared, not insulted for the sake of bolstering your own popularity with the legions of internet trolls. That’s just mean.
Teasing or no, I’m glad the article came out and I respect a person’s right to voice their opinion, no matter how misguided and off-base it is. And if Christian Lander or Erica Reitman want to come over, inspect some bee hives, eat some backyard egg sandwiches and pick some beans so that they might better understand what this is really about, they have an open invitation to my backyard anytime.