Gardens as Regenerative Citizenship

A writer with the local food movement in Milwaukee has an interesting piece on the Strong Towns blog on the role of “regenerative citizenship,” exploring victory gardens and local food as part of the democratic experience.

Here’s a clip:

What is my role, as a citizen, in creating value for myself and my neighbors? Is it a manicured, energy-intensive lawn, which requires hours of toxic maintenance to ensure modern aesthetic value? Or is my role as a citizen, to the whole of my community something that can be measured by the inherent productivity of the land? In this way, the evolution of citizenship is neatly nestled within the value derived by a visible garden in your front yard. It’s a victory for both food and for a prosperous democracy.

As citizens, we were making something, not demanding something. It didn’t ‘fit into’ our weekend schedule yet it was a productive way of spending our time, and it was fun to do it together. Seven years later, VGI installs over 500 gardens and 5 orchards every year in Milwaukee, WI, and the City of Milwaukee supports the activity by addressing policy barriers for reconnecting residents to use the land for productive activities over modern ornamental façade.

Our reasons for generating momentum for a grassroots local food movement were both ecological and economic during a time of scarcity. Many volunteers were un-or-under employed, and had renewed time or necessity to experiment with alternative methods of resource generation. We were educated do-gooders saving the world with our shovels and laptops. Yet it likely wasn’t the rationale of eco2-security that might have turned the heads of our local leaders. Quite possibly, it was more the replication of sturdiness that results from the commons producing rather than consuming.

A Victory Garden doesn’t just grow healthy food. A Victory Garden cultivates the awareness of the marginal value between our wasteful yard maintenance practices and the inefficiencies of our global food system. A Victory Garden builds a regenerative foundation for creating surplus through the active responsibility of its citizens’ output. A Victory Garden tests and adjusts the resiliency measures on which public policy sits. So we thought it was a poignant place to begin

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