Thoughts from “Growing Cities”

Photo courtesy of Prosperity Gardens

Last night, the Prosperity Gardens held a fundraiser at the Art Theater in downtown Champaign, with refreshments, t-shirts, the first public appearance of their new bus (still without a name, but I hear that they’re taking suggestions), and a screening of the new documentary “Growing Cities,” about the current state of urban agriculture in the United States. The Urbana Park District screened the film earlier in the summer, and there may be further opportunities to see it during the coming year. “Growing Cities” documents an inspiring journey taken to urban gardens around the United States. The filmmakers, Omaha natives Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette, travel from their hometown to Seattle to Boston to New Orleans, and many places in between. Food is explored not just as sustenance, but as a source of employment, education, and revitalization of even the worst-off communities (it was difficult to be depressed even by the portrayal of Detroit).

If you can see this movie, I highly recommend it. While the film is clearly a beginner’s effort, the tone is hopeful and the people they meet along the way are delightful – at one point, an ex-gang member jokes about his current employment growing arugula, commenting “Who can even spell that?” Will Allen, “the guru of urban farming” makes an appearance, as do Jim Montgomery, a San Francisco permaculturist, Kate Wells, a tough Brooklynite, and numerous chickens in every location.

I loved the ending message of the film, which is to simply “Grow where you are.” Grow where you have even just a square foot of land, and inspire others to do the same. In a Q & A session afterward, Prosperity Gardens’ Nicole Bridges said that they can provide resources for Champaign county residents who wish to grow in their homes, no matter how large or small.

Trailers and plentiful resources can be viewed on the movie’s website here; the Prosperity Gardens webpage can be seen here