Who wants a garden at City Hall?

Goodlifer: Who wants a garden at City Hall?

Public Gardens seem to be on everyone’s mind since Michelle Obama planted her organic garden at The White House. The idea, however, may not have been hers. TheWhoFarm (The White House Organic Farm Project) began as a “non-partisan, petition-based initiative to respectfully request that our 44th President oversee the planting of an organic farm on the grounds of The White House, our nation’s First Home, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.”

Daniel Bowman Simon and Casey Gustowarow traveled the country in “TheWhoFarmMobile” aka the Topsy Turvy, a vehicle made from two school buses fused together, originally designed by Stefan Sagmeister and Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s. Bowman Simon and Gustowarow ripped the roof off and put an organic edible garden (what else?) on in its place. They visited schools, farms, food pantries, farmers’ markets, and festivals in 25 states and the District of Columbia in an effort to inform the nation of TheWhoFarm and gather signatures for the petition.

First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass show students from the Bancroft Elementary how to plant a garden. Photo: The White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass show students from the Bancroft Elementary how to plant a garden. Photo: The White House.

The effort proved successful, and on March 20, 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama broke ground on the White House lawn, with the help of over twenty 5th graders from a local school.

The outside of City Hall in its current state — a bleak stone landscape.

The outside of City Hall in its current state — a bleak stone landscape.

Now, Bowman Simon has his heart set on the bleak stone landscape outside City Hall in NYC. Why wouldn’t we make better use of this prime public space? There have been trees and flowers in planters outside City Hall before. However, the most recent were removed during the Giuliani administration. Bowman Simon believes we should turn this space into an organic edible garden — People’s Garden NYC.

This garden will represent New Yorkers’ commitment to education, public service, healthy eating, and environmental stewardship. This garden will be tended by NYC public school students, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and our region’s talented gardeners and farmers. The harvest will be donated to a nearby food pantry to feed the hungry.

This garden will represent the vision of a more sustainable, livable City for all New Yorkers, and will contribute to achieving the intents of PLANYC by 2030.

 

Mayor Sam Adams planting a garden outside City Hall in Portland, OR.

A temporary victory garden outside City Hall in San Francisco, CA and a permanent one outside City Hall in Baltimore, MD.

 

Besides The White House garden, there are organic gardens planted outside several City Halls, including Baltimore, MD, Portland, OR, Kingston, NY, as well as a temporary one in San Francisco, CA. On February 12 of this year, the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, broke ground on the first People’s Garden at USDA Headquarters. The reason for the People’s Garden, according to USDA: “When Abraham Lincoln founded USDA in 1862, he referred to it as ‘The People’s Department.’ It is a description that is as true today as it was then. USDA touches the lives of Americans every day.”

The name People’s Garden is a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, and to the good work of the USDA, who planted the first People's Garden outside their headquarters on February 12.

The name People’s Garden is a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, and to the good work of the USDA, who planted the first People’s Garden outside their headquarters on February 12.

Nearly eight hundred people have already signed the petition since its launch last week. Spread the word! Maybe a few lucky school children will get to enjoy City Hall tomatoes this summer. For you non-New Yorkers, why not start a petition for a public garden to be planted outside City Hall in your town?

Top rendering by Amy Seek.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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