Leader in Sustainable Development: Michael Levenston
The Full Interview
**Disclaimer: The audio and video quality is not great! Let me know in the comments if this was an issue for you. -Luke**
In this interview we discuss the current state of Urban Agriculture. Specifically:
-CityFarmer and the story behind it
-The controversy over trademarking Urban Homestead
-Soul Farm: Raised garden beds on blacktop
-Developer’s lend land for community gardens
-How to get more people farming/gardening
-Jamie Oliver’s work with children’s lunches
-Government’s role in getting more people to garden
-City Farmer’s Demo Community Garden
-Compost is the backbone of urban ag
About Michael Levenston
Michael is the founder of CityFarmer.org, which is the best news source for anything related to Urban Agriculture. Michael also operates the City Farmer Demo Garden in Vancouver which is a community garden that practices Urban Ag and engages people from all over the city and beyond.
What I learned
Trademarking Urban Homesteading- Dervaeus family trying to trademark urban homestead and now their name is sullied.
In my opinion, it is not what mistakes you make in life, but rather how you react to them and change accordingly that define you as a person. This is a prime example of it. The Dervaeus family got some bad advice to try to trademark “Urban Homestead” and now their name is sullied even after all of the great work they are doing. I would love to talk to them and see what the rationale behind it is.
Rooftop ag- non commercial vs commercial. It looks like there really isn’t much of a market for it in commercial sense but in the non commercial with people growing it isn’t bad, that’s for damn sure.
City farm- Soul Farm. They are farming on blacktop in raised beds and getting volunteers from within the city to help them. This is some really cool stuff that should not be overlooked.
Developers lending land to community gardens until they develop it- The developers win in multiple ways. 1) They look like good guys for giving the land to people to farm, albeit it could be messy when they go to develop but it is better than not doing it. 2) They get a tax break from the city of Vancouver. Not sure if other cities give it as well. Definitely a great policy that is worth mentioning.
How do people get converted to farming? – They ultimately want to do what is “cool” – what they’re neighbors are doing and what they see other people doing. Social proof in action for sure. They see City Farmer.info as well as TSC and get excited and want to do it.
Jamie Oliver – Jamie is doing great work to get people excited about good food being brought into children’s lunches.
Government Moves- Policies that could help start urban farming- Bring back the victory gardens. By bringing people together in times of crisis they can get them to do some really cool stuff.
GMO’s – Asked what he thinks of them, Michael says they are bad because people tell them they are, so he goes with it, but is in no position to debate the subject. A good diplomatic view. I need to become fluent in them so that I can debate the matter with people.
Permaculture- Like many other terms, is still getting to the great movement of organic gardening. So, while Michael is not invested n the term he loves the following and what they are producing.
Kitsilano’s City Farmer Demo Garden- Michael’s garden began in 1982 and has become the demo compost garden for the city of Vancouver. The people who he wants to work with in the garden must have the following traits- love people, and love gardening. Great traits to have indeed!
Compost is the backbone of urban ag!- That says it all.
How to do more- What urban farmers can do if they want to do more… Inspire people! Garden well and teach others how to get involved.
Overall- To wrap up, Michael is such a good source of information and more strikingly, he is a perfect example of someone who is very good at keeping an open mind. Very easy to preach, hard to practice, and Michael has perfected it. Love it. I want to do another interview with him and the next time make sure that the internet/comp. will support a high framerate, because the quality of the production was not great. Luckily the quality of his content is very high.