It’s been a weird couple of months. Feels like a horror movie, and we all want to know: when will this end?
For me as an urban farmer, it’s been a weird couple years.
I had been an urban farmer but due to various circumstances, I had slowly let everything go: the rabbits, the goats, the chickens, the bees, and finally the garden. I became a Costco shopper and I grew ornamentals. Why, I thought, should I raise chickens, when I can just buy eggs from the store? Deep in my prepper mind, I knew that the day would come when the knowledge base I had collected might come in handy again, but but I will admit it: I got soft.
Part of it was I became separated from the farm. My partner Billy and I, and our 8-year old daughter were evicted from the house where we had started the urban farm called Ghosttown back in 2003. Separated from the land we had been tending for 15 years, we settled in a duplex in North Oakland with a concrete driveway. I gave my chickens to friends, my bees absconded from the hive around the same time we got evicted. The orchard and garden are still growing, but are tended by a different group of urban farmers who are rooted in social justice, herbal medicine, and working with the people of West Oakland. I moved on knowing this was right action.
But now, with Covid raging, and cracks in our society revealed to show inequities and weaknesses in the system, we have to do something as citizens. A friend told me this is our zero gravity moment. We are all up in the air, struggling to feel grounded. When we do land, how will the circumstances be shifted? Can we make things right, finally, for once? This is what inspires me–we need to demand a new way of living. We need more edible parks like Dover Park in Oakland, we need community orchards, we need to dig up streets and plant vegetables like Starhawk told us. We need to look at models like permaculture, but not the white male interpretation, the emergent strategy version.
I am suddenly called again, back to urban farming. My friends at Sierra magazine asked me to write a little something, here’s a story about gardening with children. Also, I found myself up in Solano county picking up a colony of bees. They are happily buzzing in the backyard. I am reminded, this is how it all started before, with a colony of bees. It’s a first step toward getting grounded into the Earth again.