Why Sustainable Agriculture Gives Us Reason To Be Hopeful

A repeating element of history is that students and young people provide the energy for change in society. In the environmental movement, projects that focus on rooftop gardens, open source technology, and intensive community development through food are helping shift the paradigm of our traditional structure to a more environmentally and socially conscious one.

What I find incredible (and ironic) about our contemporary world is that we know more about our species, the planet, and the universe than ever before, but what we’ve uncovered is that our current model is at odds with our daily lives. As a result, a comprehensive shift in the controlling paradigm is necessary. Young people leading the movement for implementing sustainable practices in our homes, buildings, and cities is a mechanism for achieving these changes.

The term “sustainable” is open to interpretation, and for me, it describes a closed system where  output equals input. There are a number of systems that influence our daily lives, and the production and distribution of food, in particular, is drawing the interest of our generation. For me, the act of eating is a representation of the simple complexity of life — “putting into your mouth what the Earth has grown is perhaps your most direct connection to [it],” says prominent food author Frances Moore Lappé. Food not only connects us to the planet, but it connects us to each other. Because we all depend on it, everyone should have equal access, and failure to ensure this is an offense against the human family and represents the definition of injustice.

Agriculture has become more and more appealing to our generation and has resulted in the launching of many projects with the objective of bringing sustainable change. Here are three projects I’ve come across that have had the greatest influence on my thinking:

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm - The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm (ESRF) is a 6,000-square-foot organic vegetable garden located on top of a warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, overlooking Manhattan. ESRF operates a small community supported agriculture (CSA) program, an onsite market, caters to local restaurants, and hosts a variety of educational and volunteer programs to educate the public. This was the first rooftop farm I had visited, and it helped expand my perception of what is possible when it comes to the location of food production.

Open Source Ecology - Collaborating with one another is built into our DNA, and open source tools allow this inclination to flourish by removing unnecessary restrictions on access to information. Open Source Ecology (OSE) applies this principle in the realm of farming. OSE is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that have been creating the Global Village Construction Set - an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows a Do-It-Yourself approach to building 50 different industrial machines required for the building of a sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

Growing Power - What Will Allen has accomplished in Milwaukee is a revolutionary idea bridging wishful thinking into reality. The organization practices and teaches how to grow soil, food, and energy. The organization has been able to create gardens everywhere, helping to provide local healthy food, and a hands-on experience for young individuals with diverse backgrounds.

Although it may be easier to focus on the problems with our society, there are people, organizations, and projects on the other side of this equation, working to right social wrongs. There is certainly reason to be hopeful for the future.

Photo Credit: Coy McKinney

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Coy McKinney

Was born in Kingston, Jamaica, raised in Atlanta, Georgia, attended high school in Torino, Italy, obtained a history degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, a law degree from the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, and is a member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (seac.org). Coy works as an urban farmer on multiple projects in the DC area and his primary interest is building small-scale, sustainable communities where appreciation of the environment, and our role within it, is deeply embedded within the culture.

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