Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sunday Recap: Food Production & Public Assembly

Last weekend, over 30 community members gathered at the Public Library to take part in an open forum organized by Iowa City non-profit Backyard Abundance. Through collective inquiry and participatory design, the process of planning and implementing a food forest in one of Iowa City's public parks continued.
Having spent the majority of my month wrist-to-elbow deep in lamb placenta at the farm, or at the back of Farm Records 101, peering over a sea of camouflage Dupont baseball caps, or doing some other equally glamorous but largely solitary task, I was giddy to be a part of this empowered assembly, and within that context, to introduce SeedBroadcast’s upcoming project with Exuberant Politics: SWAP. 
Both SWAP, with its emphasis on celebrating local seed wisdom and bottom-up food sovereignty action, and Backyard Abundance, in it’s resolve to hear community voices at the expense, perhaps, of more efficient implementation of design, hint at what the notion of a civic, or politically engaged agricultural practice looks like in action.
The meeting drew community members from diverse backgrounds, growing experience, politics, and proximity to Wetherby Park. Master Gardeners and students, guys working on urban ag policy and girls interested in prairie plants. Folks who use comfrey to make healing salves, and folks who think comfrey is a too dangerous to be planted near children (don’t even mention rhubarb). While the majority of attendees were curious and excited about diverse food-bearing plants in public space, a multitude of concerns were brought up ranging from issues of aesthetics (a forest gardens is not an English garden), to the question of necessity (can’t you go to one of those other parks to experience nature?), to the big question of how to control the uncontrollable (What if one guy runs off with all the strawberries!?) 

While I didn’t get to record any audio seed stories, the Mobile SWAP Station did get a donation of Heirloom Lettuce seeds from New Pioneer Co-Op’s Earth source Gardens, and :: HOLY POST-MEETING CONVO’S:: some remarkable feedback from community members interested in delving deeper into action by effecting ordinance-making bodies, pushing for, and participating  in new pilot projects like free seed libraries and public gardens. 

*Photos courtesy of Backyard Abundance

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