In Buenos Aires a group of guerrilla gardeners are attempting to change the way space is used in the city.

Armed with vegetable seedlings and seed bombs — seeds packed with mud for throwing into neglected urban spaces, their goal is to provide organic food for city residents.

Admittedly their method is somewhat haphazard–they consider themselves performance artists with all the whimsicality such a performance entails, yet their goal is laudable: to provide free vegetables to residents as supermarket prices continue to rise. Using open spaces in cities and suburbs to grow edibles is surely an idea whose time is ripe (sorry). I wonder, though, if public spaces will be cared for by anyone in a manner sufficient to produce a consistent harvest. If not, then the performance, while perhaps inspiring, will fall flat until an individual or a community makes a concerted effort to care for the plots and put in the hard work required to realize the benefits. Scattering seeds is one thing. Cultivating a garden is something altogether different. How would a city change if communities together began to grow food in the vacant spots interspersed throughout the city? It’s an intriguing thought.

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Mark T. Mitchell
Mark T. Mitchell teaches political theory at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. He is the author Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing and The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age (Potomac Books, 2012). He is co-editor of another book titled, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry. Currently he is writing a book on private property. In 2008-9, while on sabbatical at Princeton University, he and Jeremy Beer hatched a plan to start a website dedicated to political decentralism, economic localism, and cultural regionalism. A group of like-minded people quickly formed around these ideas, and in March 2009, FPR was launched. Although he was raised in Montana and still occasionally longs for the west, he lives in Virginia with his wife, three sons and one daughter where they are in the process of turning a few acres into a small farm. See books written by Mark Mitchell.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I have no idea how Buenos Aires functions at the city planning level, but if it were the US, that vacant land would be virtually all residential front yards.

    Turning front yards into gardens would also do far more to engender socialization than all the city planning has managed since it started changing planning and zoning to encourage interaction at the local neighborhood level.

    As it stands, from the front door and beyond is a wasteland.

  2. Interesting project. Perhaps the objective is different in Buenos Aires, but projects in the US similar to this one (for example, http://thecommonstudio.com/index.php?/project/greenaid/) seem to be focused more on aesthetics, greening a city, planting vegetation, air quality and just general improvement of the common environment than they are about providing an actual harvest. In terms of a harvest, many many places are starting community gardens. Some are just public plots where you can rent a space if you want to garden but don’t have the room; others are plots specifically designed to provide food to donate to charities, or to provide the poor or homeless places where they can grow their own food and invest in their future (such as this one, in Kansas City, my wife’s hometown http://www.kccg.org/). Many other places are doing the same or similar things. They have different objectives but I think either is a worthy goal.

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