Health / 2013
Heal This City
My idea, “Heal This City” (HTC) will demonstrate how PURE, FRESH food, grown locally, is the medicine needed to heal our city's economy from the bottom up &, also, to heal its citizens from the inside out. As you'll read below, besides Health, HTC will also impact Education & the Environment.
LA-2050's award will start 4 high-production, circulating-water farms, a virtual economy-in-a-neighborhood, in Council District 1, 8, or 9 (TBD). These will be designed compliant with municipal zoning code that would, otherwise, outlaw traditional, petrochemical & poison-dependent, soil-based farming.
In the selected neighborhood, HTC's farms will be located 10 to 15 minutes walking distance from every home in the service area. Typically, the heat of asphalt/concrete during summer keeps people indoors. HTC farms will cool the service area with greenery & give an incentive for neighborhood residents to stroll. Tranquil waterfall farms will be structured in climate controlled greenhouses, surrounded by green, park-like settings, producing plant nutrient with on-site fish aquariums. Farms will generate 6 to 10 times more produce per square foot, in (small & large) vacant lots, compared with traditional, industrial farms that work vast acres of land in distant, rural settings. HTC farms will use 5% of water needed by soil-based farming, helping to conserve water in a critical period of drought. They release no pollution into the environment.
Local jobs will emerge, paying substantially more than minimum wage. These will be supported by ongoing sales of produce. Culinary programming will be coordinated, with friends & family dinners to be served. Priced at cost, they'll introduce neighbors to healthful & delicious nutrition designed (& proven) to increase healthful living, & even save lives (search “May I Be Frank,” the movie, on Google search).
Grown in the place where people reside, HTC's fresh foods will be rich in living enzymes from the moment they are picked. They will be sold to consumers the same day. Grown without pesticides or herbicides, this food is more pure & better tasting than organic foods. It is not filled with preservatives & chemicals, as is the food that arrives by truck from hundreds of miles or (by airbus) from thousands of miles away. HTC will improve diets, enable better health for local families. In HTC’s target districts, long-standing poverty exploded in the aftermath of the great recession of 2008-09. Here, communities are tortured by the likelihood of potentially lifelong malnutrition. This problem is an outgrowth of urban blight that emerged during the troubled civil rights, 1950-60 era. Local children from that time are the disease-prone adults of today, crowding emergency rooms & clinics with chronic heart & other organ ailments, diabetes, obesity, & mental illness.
In fact, these souls were crippled before the time when we discovered that a child undernourished in her first three years will not be able to effectively learn throughout a lifetime of standard education. So, in addition to chronic health problems, devoid of healthy learning tools, a whole generation of people have been effectively prevented from prospering. HTC will open doors to a new future, buttressed in its resolve by the dozens of studies that prove the value & healthful effects exposure to nature has on people living in hardscape urban settings. With exposure to nature in the context of food cultivation, the available rewards increase in terms of confidence, self-esteem & leadership; discipline & a sense of self-sufficiency also result. As HTC’s economic model is proven viable, banks will step up to invest in its urban-farming economy. Already, Chase Bank, Playa Vista, has expressed interest, knowing growth will occur where there was practically nothing in which to invest.
Beyond nutrition, as important as that is, the fundamental change that HTC will realize is transforming a generation of young people by exposing them to nature & the ancient discipline of food cultivation. In grammar, middle, & high-schools, HTC's mission is to propagate farms throughout Los Angeles. By using school lands to establish garden-enhanced curriculum, students are empowered to learn better & to innovate in development of new, urban farming tools. implements are being designed & fabricated, shedding light on yet another economic engine of the new urban agriculture. Combining these assets with existing curriculum, students will learn the economics of “farming the American city”, establishing themselves as a growing army of urban farmers that can expand farms statewide, nationally and internationally.
Following graduation from high-school, students will help to propagate farms for retirement homes and impoverished neighborhoods. There are also hospital targets, such as Kaiser Permanente, that is seeking to enable the same goals HTC is focused on in underserved communities.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Aquaponic/Aeroponic farm design and implementation/supervision at Hollygrove Farms, New Orleans, 2011-12 Aeroponic Roof Farm design, Roof of Aryeh Building, Los Angeles Aeroponic farm design and implementation/supervision on Rouse’s Supermarket roof, New Orleans “Roots on the Rooftop”, 2012 Aeroponic design for Playa Restaurant rooftop farming system, 2012 Aquaponic farm design and implementation supervision, Westchester Enriched Science Magnets High School, Los Angeles 2012-13 Design/Implementation/ world’s first combination Aquaponics/Aeroponics TowerGarden w/ fish-derived nutrient, 2013 Presently designing Buena Park Gardens, multiple Aquaponic and Aeroponic greenhouses on 10 acres under power-line easement, Knott Ave., Buena Park
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets High School, L.A., CA 90045 including Principal, Robert Canosa-Carr, Teachers Ken Tiegs and Joe Starks Milliken Middle School, Burbank, Teacher Debra Woolford David Rosenstein - President, CEO EvoFarm Aquaponics Ryland Englehart - Owner, Cafe Gratitude, Venice & Larchmont Village John Rivera Sedlar - Owner, chef, Playa Restaurant and Rivera Restaurant, Los Angeles Councilmember Ed Reyes, CD 1 Councilman Bernard Parks, CD 8 (Deputy Purvi Doshi) Councilmember Jan Perry, CD 9 Councilman Mike Bonin, CD 11, (Deputy Nate Kaplan) Linda Lucks, President, Venice Neighborhood Council Kimberly King-Burns, Ocean Park Community Center (homeless farming program)
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Our projects, at both WESM High School in Westchester & Milliken Middle School in Burbank, are curricular models with built-in measures that will be evaluated by faculty & administration. Success is measured by improved overall educational performance. Academic achievement is what they want to assure.
Our measure of results is how much enrichment & positive behavior modification we accomplish by involving students in food growing discipline. How much health is it possible for students to gain? We rely on interviews & scoring by students to measure our overall success in conjunction with teacher/administrator reviews.
In the projects we propose for farming in LA, we are selecting a neighborhood food desert, wherein all resident families will be interviewed before our first year's residency to determine the dietary deficiencies against current staples, given the absence of fresh foods in the community. During the first year's residency, we will re-visit the least well-nourished 1/3 of families to sample progress & better understand how to make their experience at our farmers markets more beneficial. Giving families with children precedent, we will visit schools where our focus children attend to present & give those children pride, at the same time, raising interest in fresh foods among their peers & establishing the basis for outreach in those schools so we can eventually bring a school Aquaponics garden that grows food using fish nutrient as an entry-level project. We anticipate maximum 3 schools (elementary, middle school, & high school) somewhere near the focus neighborhood. Further into the project, as the culinary program takes shape, we will gage the response to fresh foods recipes from at least two restaurant chef visits, & we'll invite families to contribute ethnographic recipes drawn from their family history.
Our bottom line, however, is the measure of farm success. We plan to sell our produce as it is grown... giving overgrowth to the homeless project with which we presently collaborate at Ocean Park Community Center or via friends of families in our own focus neighborhood. To the extent that we can increase consumption of fresh foods, locally, particularly by children, measuring that consumption by survey, we will be able to calibrate by extension what kind of effect we will have in the expansion phase following the first year.
An interesting model is developing at WESM that I will duplicate & modify for our neighborhood farm network. In the Health & Sports Medicine Magnet, the embedded culinary program has students calibrating themselves, measuring weight, height, body fat, blood levels, etc. Their diet, then modified, will include measured quantities of fresh foods grown in the Aqua/Aeroponic greenhouse on campus. Each week, the physical exam will be given to each student anew, measuring various blood levels, weight, & body fat. I will get neighborhood participants to follow that regime as well
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
EDUCATION: With the momentum we've experienced this past year as part of developing the program and curriculum for Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets High School, there's no question that teachers and principles recognize the value of Lab-type greenhouse farming as opposed to traditional raised-bed farming. It's hard to overstate the value of this to high-school education. Teaching seed propagation, benefits of a varied crop mix to high-school students markedly improves test scores. (See studies uploaded, below)
ENVIRONMENT: With increasing climate change, extended droughts are continuing, further limiting food production in the Central Valley and farming communities on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Bottom line, food prices are projected to spike sooner, not later. It is crucial to begin transitioning from wasteful and ecologically damaging farming practices that yield 4-6 harvests per year to intensive, high-production circulating-water farm methods that use 5% of water used in conventional agribusiness. Energy prices are also trending upward and this, too, affects cost and availability of foods. Without question, this project is tied to Los Angeles' economic viability as an agriculture industry state. With farm production shrinking in the Central Valley each year, Los Angeles could step into position as a high-volume producer of fresh foods and vegetables, improving the likelihood that agriculture will continue to be a strong element of the local and state economy.
The food desert issues and homeless problems in in Los Angeles are also at a critical juncture. There is no doubt that a vibrant urban agriculture economy will make a huge difference to Los Angeles' ability to maintain law and order, should production in distant rural settings undergo continued shrinkage as a result of changing climate, drought, rising energy prices and the need to scale back carbon emissions that trucking foods from farms to urban centers causes.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
The harsh neighborhoods of L.A.’s inner city contain thousands of families held hostage to crime and gang warfare, even as their health is degrading as a result of fast-food addictions, rampant unemployment that keeps them poor, absence of fresh foods. The capitalist tool of choice, here, is the sale of illicit drugs. Combined with a prison industry that profits from incarceration, the absence of male supervision and father-figures in general is now the norm. Truly, the only possible way out of this mess is by means of an economy that TRICKLES UP, one grown with simple seeds that also leads to health. Food is the only entry level economy that works, central to everything worth living for, including family unity, culture and tradition, the celebration of life. No rational solution will emerge from entitlement programs that throw money or coupons at the problem without involving life transforming processes that cure people in ways they need curing. Where the bottom falls out of our society, the support for people falling through that hole must involve nutrition, jobs, and genuine food justice. Success in the year 2050 is an inner city environment remediated of toxic substances in homes (partnership we will enable through involvement of fellow builders volunteering to help us move that piece forward); hardscape neighborhoods softened by tree plantings giving shade, making neighborhoods strollable, lessening heat in summer, that lead walkers to park settings where farms dot the former hardscape. Success is more (if not all) children well-nourished, even if poor, children who appreciate where food comes from (not the supermarket), regularly partaking in the unifying grace that breaking bread with family and friends bestows on us when we sit together at a common table, who give thanks and enjoy the happiness of common gratitude. Success is the end of our oppressive “war on drugs” that punishes people for wanting to medicate themselves out of their misery, that locks them up, splintering families, delivering profits to faceless corporations that build and own human warehouses. Success is recognition for the civilizing effect that agriculture once bestowed on early human society, matched in the present and giving people tools of survival that they, themselves, activate at will. Success is money earned locally that circulates in the neighborhood to improve the quality of life, that grows as a community asset like the food growing where they live. Success is a city proud of the people in the hood, in the barrio, who are productive. Success is children learning, unburdened by hunger and lack of sleep. Success is fathers reuniting with their families, looking forward with hope. Success is the eradication of adult-type diabetes in children, the eradication of child heart disease brought on by obesity. Success is love between neighbors, who take pride from mutual self-sufficiency and a means of survival that they share.