Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Post: Stewardship and Veganism

Wahoo. The Metropulse's "Fearless Foodie", Rose Kennedy, blogged about the weekly workshops at Beardsley. Thanks Fearless Foodie. I will be pleased if we can get even 1/8th of the folks who read the Metropulse each week to come out for a workshop. 

In thinking about the expanding coverage of this project I am reminded that at its heart is a question of "what can we do when we are told we must change our lives or die"? What is reasonable? What is culturally acceptable? What is necessary? The Urban Land Scouts reflect some of the steps I think people should be taking to become better stewards of the land where we live. 

I asked my friend Kat to write about what stewardship means to her. More specifically, I asked her to write about the connections between stewardship and veganism.  I am not vegan, Kat and her husband's commitment to a profound practice causes me to stop and look more closely at my own habits. That observation is, or might be, the foundation for change. 


Stewardship - Veganism 
 by Kat Raese

Stewardship is acting on something so many people believe in already—sustainability, healthy
environments, and community involvement. It is a movement away from the kind of solipsistic drive
that denies the existence of consequences for each and every one of our actions. In many ways, a
considerable number of people are already interested in greater connection with their environments: the Local Food and Slow Food movements are a part of this, as are the initiatives for litter clean-up,
recycling, sustainable business practices, etc. In this sense, we become stewards when we realize
ourselves as persons whose responsibility it is to take care of something; that something is often most
immediately accessible through our daily practices of eating, purchasing items, and talking to people.
I had been vegan for a good while before I became conscious of the other ways in which I could
practice stewardship. To me, stewardship is as much an extension of veganism as veganism is an
extension of stewardship—both spring up from a place of greater awareness of my surroundings, and
both are outward manifestations of my beliefs. I am still in the process of defining the juncture of
stewardship and veganism, but am striving to establish a more comprehensive philosophy of not just
eating, but of subsistence.

Level Two: Mapping

Urban Land Scouts, tomorrow is the second FREE workshop at CAC Beardsley Community Farm and we're going to be...MAPPING! Bring the whole family. Or people you wish were your family.

We'll meet rain or shine, 5-7 pm, 1719 Reynolds St. (behind the Cansler Boys and Girls Club). Wear closed toe shoes and dress for the weather.

Did I mention yet how much I love these posters by Rival Collective? Well I do.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Workshop Schedule

Below is a listing of the upcoming workshops at CAC Beardsley Community Farm. If you live in the Knoxville area, I hope you'll come out to one. Email passage (at) urbanlandscouts (dot) com with questions.

All workshops are on Wednesday from 5-7 pm at CAC Beardsley Community Farm (1719 Reynolds St., behind the Cansler Boys and Girls Club). All workshops are free and will meet no matter what the weather. Wear closed toe shoes and dress to be outside. Everyone is welcome, but minors be with a guardian.

March 30th, Level 2 - Mapping
Help map plants in Knoxville an earn an Urban Land Scout badge! This week we will walk and note things for our collaborative map.   

April 6th, Wednesday, 5-7 pm,
Level 3 - Seed Bombs!
Earn an Urban Land Scout badge! This week we will make seed bombs and talk about native plants, restoration, and germination. 

April 13th, Wednesday, 5-7 pm,
Level 4 - Eat Wild
We will be joined this week by the wise Jeff Ross, of Blackberry Farms, to learn more about foraging for wild edibles in our city. 

April 20th, Wednesday, 5-7 pm,
Level 5 - Growing Vegetables
This week of Urban Land Scouting we will plant vegetable seeds in containers and send participants home with seed to tend.

April 27th, Level 6 - Blogging
Today we will write, and draw to create elements for a zine and blog post about Urban Land Scouting. Materials will be provided.

May 4th, Level 7 - Seeds
Today we will look for seeds in the wild to harvest as well as checking on some of our previously established seeds and starting another round.

May 11th, Level 8 - Perennials
This week we will talk about choosing, planting, and maintaining perennial plants in an urban setting. There is no cost and we will meet no matter what the weather.

May 18th, Level 9 - Compost and Worms
Worms! Today we will talk about compost, worms, how to start a small worm compost bin. 

May 25th, Level 10 - Share the Harvest
Today we will visit the numerous fruit and nut trees at Malcolm Martin park and help harvest at CAC Beardsley Community Farm.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fiona McAnally

This marks the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of informal profiles of people whose work closely parallels and compliments the ideas of the Urban Land Scouts. Without further ado I would like to introduce Fiona McAnally.

Fiona is currently pursuing her masters in Public Horticulture at the University of Tennessee after working stints with AC Entertainment, the Knoxville Visitors Center, and Ramsey House Plantation. I asked McAnally about the term "Public horticulture" and she was quick to explain that, "Public horticulture is just sharing gardening with the public. I'm truly interested in the vegetable side of it. Teaching kids that potatoes grow in the ground. That you can eat food right off a plant."

McAnally grew up working on a farm and talked about spending weekends moving rocks and digging post holes-- the type of hard labor that dissolves romantic ideas about farming. She credits her work with the Ramsey House Plantation and working with renowned seed saver John Coykendall with rekindling her interest in growing food. "John was a big inspiration."

Now at UT, McAnally interviews many growers (like Coykendall) about the varieties of heirloom seeds they've saved as well as the oral history that attend them. "I have a special interest in the Southern Appalachia. Two generations ago, we were all eating vegetables. We weren't growing ornamental flowers. That was a luxury."

Our conversation veered to the trying economics of vegetable growing. Her own father was a full time engineer and full time farmer. McAnally asked rhetorically, "What if you do everything right? You hit the market just right and everything grows just right? Can you then sit down and do the math and make a living?" Many of the growers she interviews are retired or have another supplemental income to make that math work out. Our current food system is based on unsustainable government subsidies and a soil-destructive system of herbicides and pesticides. In the face of this enormous and well entrenched system the question arises: What would a sustainable food system look like? One in which growers can "make a living" with practices that preserve soil health and biodiversity and in which consumers enjoy the food security of having enough?

I am glad to know someone as capable and engaged as Ms. McAnally is on the problem and more specifically, looking to bring a base level of knowledge, access, and experience to the public. If you're in Knoxville and would like to learn more about sustainable vegetable gardening, consider visiting UT's Organic Crops Field Tour on April 28th. Pre-registration is required and lunch will be served.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Urban Land Scouts at Beardsley Community Farm

This Wednesday, March 23rd, from 5-7 pm, we will begin the first of ten FREE Urban Land Scout workshops at CAC Beardsley Community Farm (1719 Reynolds St. behind the Cansler Boys and Girls Club). If you live in Knoxville, please come join us. If you don't live in Knoxville, you can host your own workshops. Please contact me if you'd like help planning. Otherwise, read up on the levels and tasks and iterate away.

This is not Beardsley Farm. This image comes from the Library of Congress flickr stream.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bran Bombs + Grows

Beautiful peppers and what looks like purple basil. 
Bran is a very urban Urban Land Scout. Here are photos of his vegetables and his deposited seed bomb (in the planters in front of the beautiful Medical Arts Building in downtown Knoxville).

Congratulations to Bran for earning his Level 3 and 5 badges.

Not only does Bran practice good stewardship in town, he's an active part of the arts and music scenes in Knoxville. If you've been a downtown dweller for a while, chances are you've seen his drawings, performances, or curated exhibits. You can read more about his work on his site, PoMoNoBo Productions.

You may have to weed your area and/or remove cigarette butts for best results.
Just a reminder, this Wednesday begins the first of ten free Urban Land Scout workshops at CAC Beardsley Community Farm, 5-7 pm. All workshops are free and appropriate for most ages. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. Information about each workshop can be found in the sidebar to the left. Hope to see you all out at Beardsley.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Level 5: Cultivation

The Raeses (the Matt half of which is show here) are inspiring Urban Land Scouts and radical homemakers. You can read about their canning, cooking, and philosophical musings on their blog Food, Literature, Philosophy. Not only do the Raeses maintain one of the more healthy and engaging vegan diets I've ever witnessed, they grow and preserve a lot of their own food. Kat Raese taught a great series of canning workshops at the Birdhouse this past year. If you're in Knoxville, keep an eye on their blog for posts about future workshops and classes (hopefully one about fermenting your own hot sauce--ahem).

That hot sauce and the home-grown collards featured at left went into what looks like a beautiful dinner. Congratulations Raeses, on earning your Level 5 badge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Large Worm

Yesterday I saw one of the largest worms I have ever seen in person. Brave Urban Land Scout that I am, I immediately turned to my friend and said, "You pick it up." She tried and the worm went into spectacularly muscular spasms and wriggled out of her hands. Then it slithered away into the grass. Very quickly. I snapped the photo below with my fingers for scale. It looked bigger in person. Does anyone know what variety of worm we might have seen?

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Here's a fine (and slightly outdated) infographic showing the way our diets are guided by subsidies.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Gluttony of Lawns

Image via MoMa
I've posted before about the beautiful didactic propaganda posters of the World Wars, but the language of this one (via MoMA's Counter Space: the new kitchen) speaks to my Urban Land Scout-ness. EVERY available piece of land? Surely not every one? Interstate margins and medians? Too dangerous and hard to access, not to mention the particulate matter generated by tens of thousands of engines turning gasoline into go. What about shopping mall parking lot dividers (those generic islands of monkey grass, dark mulch, and holly)? Not great soil, probably not good water access, and likely to get a lot of pedestrian traffic. How about the abandoned house next door? It might qualify.

I exaggerate only to illustrate that the idea of gardening "every available piece of land" is a lot more romantic and grandiose than the practicalities of doing it. The poster's second statement-- GROW YOUR OWN FOOD-- implies that one should grow the food on YOUR OWN LAND (if you are so lucky to have access to some).

As it so happens, if you're privileged enough to have a house, chances are you do have access to land. We North Americans have a deep rooted (oh, that pun) love of the lawn. Artist Fritz Haeg has made a fine  body of work "attacking the front lawn" (called Edible Estates) and transforming the traditional grass-blanket lawns of select families into homeowner-association-friendly edible landscapes. It's one thing to tear out a chunk of sod, mix in some compost, and grow some tomatoes for a season, it's a more impressive feat to overhaul the entire yard in such a way that property-value-sensitive neighbors aren't going to complain about your unruly Eden. In the Edible Estates book, Haeg taps a well-researched essay by Michael Pollan in which he outlines the historic precedents and chemical costs of our love of lawn.

If you've got a front lawn (or your apartment complex does) and are thinking about pushing some edible landscaping on your housemates/landlord/whomever, I recommend Haeg's book both for it's aesthetic sensibilities and it's infectious enthusiasm. Now's the time to start planning and between Haeg's work and the seed catalogs arriving by mail, you should have more inspiration than you do arable land. Go forth and "supply your own cookhouse."