Why Garden of Easton?
Many of America’s inner cities have become food deserts, with local residents unable to procure fresh food. Tens of millions of people across the country live in food insecure households and either face the threat of or are going hungry on a daily basis. This is an issue centered around race and class, with residents of urban areas, low income people, and people of color statistically facing undue food security burdens. As people go hungry for want of food, our current model of industrial agriculture is in crisis. Due to illogical subsidization schemes, farmers prioritize the use of hundreds of millions of acres of productive farmland for corn and soy, used primarily for industrial ethanol and animal feed. America’s industrial meat industry confines and abuses animals cruelly, injecting them with hormones and antibiotics. Farms use petroleum based fertilizers and fuels, contributing to climate change on a massive scale. That petroleum fuel is used to power tractors that till land for cultivation, contributing to soil erosion, top soil loss and runoff. The industrial model prioritizes short term gain, as opposed to long term sustainability and stewardship of the Earth. This is evidenced by the rampant use of toxic pesticides and neonics, which have contributed to mass pollinator die offs world-wide. The production of commodity crops, (and the aforementioned environmental and ethical ills associated with said production), as opposed to food for actual people is at the root of the industrial agricultural system in the United States. The weight of these problems is enormous, and we chose to think globally and act locally in tackling these issues.
It is in recognition of the aforementioned problems that we approached the Garden of Easton project. The Lehigh Valley and the Easton community more specifically acts as a microcosm for what is going on nationally in terms of food issues. Easton is affected by the problem of Food deserts, and the racial divide of food insecurity. As the connectivity of these problems is clear to many, in our own community tens of organizations and businesses and sprung up to combat hunger and poverty, and to establish a local food system that prioritizes nutrition, care for the earth and empowerment and charity to the underprivileged. An issue we faced when attempting to explore the local food system on our own was just how many organizations and businesses there are, with a myriad of various web presences.
The Garden of Easton seeks to aggregate the relevant information from all of these entities to connect local residents to food, whether that be a community garden, a CSA pickup location, a homeless shelter or a meal center. We do so by providing an all encompassing Android Application, web based map and plain text list of the food providers and producers in our community so that residents have an easily accessible site to find resources they need. With 80+ community gardens, local farmers, food banks, meal centers, farmers markets and CSA pickups, the Garden of Easton hopes to foster connectivity between consumers and producers in the local food system.
A full length essay is forthcoming.