Solving Cities

Los Angeles urban farmers run for office

Los Angeles urban farmers run for office

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The new company Farmscape is proving skeptics wrong. Apparently, bringing farms to front lawns is a lucrative business. Oh, and they are running for office.

Watching someone water their lush green lawn in a desert landscape should be a surreal image - like a scene from a David Lynch or Terry Gilliam film. Instead, no one bats an eye.

The Los Angeles based company Farmscape is trying to challenge the insidiousness of California grass - and not just by promoting succulents.

Zak Stone of GOOD Cities writes, "Farmscape is proving that there's enough of an appetite for farming on residential land to turn the proposition into a high-growth business. The less-than-four-year-old company has 12 full-time employees—including seven farmers who receive a living wage plus healthcare—and is looking to keep growing."

The company offers organic farming as a service. Initially they make an assessment, which costs $90. Next an urban farm architect designs a custom plan for the garden. Finally, the beds are installed and a Farmscape farmer visits the garden once a week to plant, tend to pests and disease control, rotate the crops, and maintain the irrigation system.

"One of the things that people don’t talk about when they talk about the food system is who is working," says Rachel Bailin, Farmscape's marketing manager. By bringing farms directly to residents and restauranteurs, will the invisibility and poor labor conditions of migrant workers also be brought to the forefront?

Farmscape's agenda is decidedly political. In fact, the company is running for office. No joke.

Well, actually it is a joke of sorts:

"If corporations are already deciding our politics by giving a bunch of money and lobbying, why not see if we can take out the middleman that would be the politician and make corporations the politician?" says Bailin.

In light of the the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United in 2010, granting corporations the right to free speech - in other words considering corporations persons - Farmscape is being seriously playful about the importance of bringing farms back into the city.

"When we first started, we expected that our clients would be of a higher income level and would be two-parent working families," says Bailin. Much to her surprise, Farmscape has built gardens for single mothers, preschool teachers, and institutions and businesses offering gardens as an employee perk.

The company maintains 150 urban farms weekly, and have installed over 300 farms throughout Los Angeles.

Could this model spark a shift in how we think about farming practices and the use of urban space?

[via: Planetizen; GOOD Cities]

Images: Farmscape

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Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure