The 'Locavores' Save the World

(from Fast Company website)

My graduate degree is in land planning, specifically, 'urban and regional planning'.  A misnomer in my case since I was already, back decades ago, a devotee of E.F. Schumacher and his 'small is beautiful' ideas.

In 1955, the British born Schumacher (b.1911) accepted a three month assignment as Economic Development Adviser to the Government of Burma.  He soon concluded that the last thing the Burmese people needed was Western style economic develop­ment. He suggested that they develop a ‘middle way’ between the Western mode of increasing material consumption (satisfied by mechanised production) and the Buddhist ideal of satisfying human needs through dignified work (which also purified one’s character and was a spiritual offering).  He later coined the term ‘Buddhist Economics’ for a way of life that has respect for meaningful work and he urged industrial countries to scale down their ‘wants’ in order to meet their real physical and psychological needs.

The officials in Burma did not appreciate his report.  

Undeterred, Schumacher went on to extol the value of self sufficiency. He said fuel and food were the two basic necessi­ties for survival and sustainability and urged all communities and regions to be as self-sufficient as far as possible — otherwise they become economically and politically vulnerable.

He also became involved in sustainable agriculture. He spent much time in his organic garden, was President of the UK Soil Association and was an advocate of tree-planting and forest farming schemes wherever he went.

My devotion to Schumacher's ideas years ago did not fit in planning classes which emphasized transit, zoning and floor/area ratios.

( a Duany project in Fort Myers)

But now Andres Duany, the father and planning icon of the 'New Urbanism', is on the same page as me! At a recent conference he advocated that planners create a small-town America that more closely resembles pre-1850 America than pre-1950. 

YAY!!! I have been waiting for this....

Duany is looking beyond 'making the best of suburban America's bad situation' (which he has been doing for all these years with his firm) and is going headlong into agrarian urbanism.

(biz fizz photo from NEF site - see below)

Finally. Thank You, Andres Duany.

Agrarian urbanism is different from "urban agriculture" where we retrofit cities to grow food.

It is differnt from "agricultural urbanism" where an intentional community has a corresponding farm.

"Agrarian urbanism," Duany says,  "is a society involved with the growing of food."  AMEN.

This is not the official 'HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities' - which never once mentions growing food in its livability principles! It is not the intentional communities featuring golf course living, equestrian living, or the 'fly-in' lifestyle.... It is communities built for, as Duany says, 'locavores' or people who eat and produce their own food.

Duany says these comunnuties would be committed to "hand-tended agriculture" in whatever form that takes. It would be part of the homeowners' association agreement. Instead of a strip mall in the town square, there's a "market square" comprised of green markets, restaurants, cooking schools, an agricultural university, and so on.
what?! no shoes?

Here is what an article in Fast company said about Duany's presentation:

"Duany conceded growing food is hard work, which is why his agrarian communities would still end up hiring Hispanic laborers to do the dirty work. But "you don't pretend they don't exist," he said in a particular utopian moment. "The people who grow the food must be known to the kids. And they're the ones who actually know what they're doing -- they know how to build buildings and they know how to grow food."

This brings up prickly social issues galore, I realize that. But the fact is - we need to get back to Mother Earth. Rooftop farming does not solve the issue - farming homesteads and villages do.

See the article from the New York Times 2 days ago on City Slickers Take to the Crops (click on the title for article). We are all heading toward Buddhist Economics.....

for more on this look at the New Economics Foundation website.

(this post is for my friend, Lynn)


  1. Testing--I posted a comment last night and it did not come up--after I hit "post comment" a test word came up, and I typed it. So I want to see if the system is working before I redo my comment. Or, of course, if I made a mistake.

  2. Ah so--I think the problem was that I did not see the test word until much later, and then sent it again. Hmm.

    Anyway, I have always loved the idea of survival gardens, as some call them. Never grew that much myself, too old now, too busy when younger. No Hispanics I guess.

    In the nineteenth century the notion of going back to the land to grow your own food paralleled the rise of cities. Some writers, like Edmund Morris in his Ten Acres Enough (1863), concerned themselves with selling produce. One of these was Anna B. Warner, whose Miss Tiller's Vegetable Garden and The Money She Made By It (1873), drew on her own experiences on the Warner property across from West Point. Bolton Hall's Three Acres and Liberty (1907) and A Little Land and a Living (1908) advocated intensive farming in the city. Five Acres and Independence by M.G. Kains revisited the issue during the depression. Liberty Hyde Bailey's Country Live in America, begun early in the century to better the cultural lives of farmers, published many back-to-the-land narratives from readers during the twenties and thirties, before ending as a picture magazine for elite hobby farmers.

    And then during the Mother Earth era, repeat.

    I am following the NYT coverage of the new locavore movement with interest. I'm with them in spirit.

  3. Whoa! your erudition amazes! Is this your area of expertise? I have never heard of any of those books - not even the renowned Wendell Berry mentions them....

    and where is the Warner property?

    (The 'capcha' word is to prevent the roving computer sales ads from appearing in the comments sorry)

  4. The Warner property is now called Constituion Island and is open for tours during summer months. Google Constitution Island--it's opposite West Point and you (well, we did) get there by launch from West Point. Anna and her famous sister Susan had to support themselves and relatives from the garden--and they also cut wood and fished.

    Actually, my specialization is the language of flowers--Google me for that. As for the other, longer story, but yes, I did a lot of work in garden writing. Do you want me to tell this here and take up blog space, or maybe e-mail you at your business??

    A personal note--today, May 31, I have reached my own serenity in the garden, in that all the planting is done--for the first time ever--by Memorial Day.

  5. language of flowers....go to

  6. A fountain in a garden gives it an ambiance of serenity and elegance, whether the garden is big or small. You will find a wide selection of garden fountains to choose from when you search online. Sitting in your garden or enjoying the view from your patio as you listen to the trickle of water in the large fountain will fill you with a sense of peace.


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