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Devaluation of Food and Land in the City Getting Me Down

Posts: 967
Location: Ohio, USA
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I'm going to vent a little here. I work in the urban world. I am working on introducing city folk to the food system. Boy, is it bad. Ir's got many moments that I know I am making a difference,  but there's also a lot of moments where I want to throw my hands up, move to the country, and say "f*ck ya'all".

What I've narrowed it down to is a devaluation of the food system. Food is free. Really. The government gives it to you. Plus, if you work the fields, you are a slave or it is your hobby: it's not a real job and you aren't worthy of appreciation if you spend your time doing it.

The first time I tried to sell produce, I ran into something real strange.  I had to explain to people mint can make mint tea. The next time I had mint tea samples and was asked for the recipe. I had an arguement with a kid who was convinced apples don't grow on trees, while I was standing next to an apple tree with apples on it. Another thought a hose could be turned to hot or cold water. The first time I had a successful fundraiser selling flower bouquets, I let the staff know the outcome and they were surprised and delighted the garden could actually make money. When I brought catalogs to the school and asked for staff and child input on what to buy it took a week and me promoting in the hall way for people to believe they could have input on what was planted- fruit, we need more fruit. These moments marke me feel like I'm breaking barriers. But, there's the otherside to this naivete.

The first time I tried to sell produce, they didn't sell despite hours of work and care. When I ask for volunteers to help in the garden, no one usually comes. Even when I ask people to come harvest and take what you harvest, only my friends show up. When I ask staff for a flier to go out about the garden happenings,  it doesn't happen. When I ask for needed infrastructure help or maintenance from the maintenance staff, it's usually ignored.  One person on staff seems to be against the whole thing and he's gate keeper to about all maintenance. He has spent 2 months ignoring requests to turn the water on.  The garden is dying and he doesn't care. In fact,  I am pretty sure he's happy that he doesn't have someone fixing the garden he refused to maintain even though it is probably technically his job. It's totally and utterly frustrating because much of the staff also doesn't really value the work anyway or have any idea what the affect of not turning on the water is.  In fact, I am just having fun in their eyes, so what's the big deal?

They don't see that the school test scores will suffer, that the kids who are future adults will benefit  from the financial stability gardening helps provide. They don't see that the kids will be disadvantaged at learning many occupational fields. Or at least, they don't seem to see it.

It also simply feels crappy to have people think your not valuable and not doing amazingly nice awesome things when you are. I know if the program survives long enough they will eventually learn its value, but some days, such as today, my nerves are shot. I just wanted to water the high tunnel crops for the CSA and no, the a-hole still hasn't turned on the water so they are wilted and you can't sell wilted produce. They will probably all die or bolt in the next week and I will walk away from it having gained experience and they will have lost something they never measured the value of and may never know.

I don't know if others are running up against this brick wall of ignorance and prejudice and hoping to body-slam their way through it,  but a shout-out would be appreciated.  Thanks!

Posts: 9002
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I think if it's gotten to the point where you're ready to quit, there's nothing wrong with burning a few bridges. Go above the guy's head wherever that may lead. Make some noise. Try yelling. Nothing wrong with insults if a person is worthy of insults. Just do whatever you have to do, to get what you want. I can't imagine a situation where I would do without any resource that I need. Make yourself an absolute pain in his ass. What's the worst that could happen?

Or just go and turn the water on yourself. Turn every tap to see which one does it. Maybe you'll turn off the sprinklers or water to the cafeteria. This will get you noticed. I've dealt with property managers who thought they had some power over me. You can't do this or that. I always tell them that I'm going to do whatever it requires to get the job done, and if they think I've done something really bad, make some phone calls and I'll talk to whoever they send by.

The idea is to have him completely overruled. You need to create a situation, where that guy works for you, when you need something. Make him your bitch. The only way you can accomplish that is probably to get the person who signs his paycheck to agree that he's purposely trying to prevent you from succeeding. If you have extra time, more than is needed to look after that garden, consider going after his job. Offer them a deal where you do it all. Maybe you'll have to hire a helper. See if you can chop the feet out from under him.
Posts: 1688
Location: Victoria BC
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Plus one on what Dale said. Being willing to walk away with middle fingers raised is a position of power.

Also... those people suck donkey nards. Good for you for trying so hard, and making the difference you've made. But if you need to, you can do what you're doing somewhere that it will be more appreciated, and still be Doing Good.

This is a very localized thing in my very left/green area. There are lots of small cities and towns that have active community gardens, lots of people inyo green things, local government and non-profit support, and good things happening in at least some of the schools.

But there are also outlier towns/cities where there is that one dude just about singlehandedly maintaining a community garden that never sees volunteers and harvests are wasted... when I met him I suggested he move half an hour in any direction!
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry. I wrung this tiny ad and it was still dry.
Building Your Permaculture Property | Free Permaculture Summit | April 23-25
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