Organizational Questions
We have a general human resource problem: how do we figure out who goes where? In the short term, this could just involve humans coordinating all the data, building relationships with the farms and building relationships with the occupiers and generally being responsible for knowing everything that's going down on the farms front. But we have general intake issues: what's our screening process? Do we have sit-downs with each person who wants to go out? By what criteria can we accept or reject participants? How do we avoid becoming gatekeepers while also doing everything we can to ensure that these relationships get built up in the best, most sustainable way possible? The early trips going out particularly need to be filled by people who can serve as conscientious ambassadors for what we're doing.
At some point, this project should become huge. And if it's going to function as a decentralized, horizontal network, presumably the humans in the middle are going to be liberated from the equation. What's the best way to organize and grow this project?
 Ideas from the Mailing List
Build a powercube for the tractor that can be used to turn soil into press bricks we can use to build shelter.
Bring control of food to people
Grow food for the movement •mass chicken tractors
Build the landbase through wildcrafting
Do educational outreach to inform the public about:
- GMOs and seed patents
- small scale kitchen gardening
- promoting seed saving
- teaching about cooking and food storage / canning
- introducing survival skills
- food security
Help encourage participation in urban gardening,
specific outreach to native american communities and to assist communities (Hunts Point) in the transition to sustainability and self sufficiency
connecting communities in NYC to the rural environment
help people get their hands dirty
 Urban Agriculture
This is a proposal for Occupy Farms to promote democratized urban agriculture by making personal, portable mini-farms from recycled materials and distributing them in NYC in the spring. The aim is to make home food production accessible to all, regardless of income, education or location. It will also be an outreach opportunity and can work hand in hand with occupying vacant lots.
Sorry for the long email, I'll be talking about this at the meeting tomorrow but thought I would put the idea in writing as well...
Urban farming as it exists currently:
- Expensive to start
- Difficult to learn
- Time consuming
- Requires access to land or considerable roof space
- Favors those with enough capital to achieve economies of scale
- Favors organizations able to deal with complex city bureaucracies
- Often goes hand in hand with gentrification
- Techniques either super high-tech (hydroponics) or out-of date and difficult (row farming).
These barriers to entry prevent ordinary people - who don't want to become full-time growers and don't have access to a community garden - from growing their own food.
Portable mini-farms offer an alternative:
- They can be created for almost no money mostly using items found in the trash. You can put them anywhere that gets enough sunlight - windows, fire escapes, stoops, roofs etc.
- If you only have a little space (or enthusiasm) you can have just one, if you've got a big space you can fill it with them. You can start small and scale up.
- If they're made right, they're easy and low-maintenance, only needing watering every few days.
- They don't require permission from a landlord or anyone else.
- They're portable - bring them inside in the winter, take them with you when you move, or put them on an a vacant property and take them with you when you get evicted.
- Moneyless personal food production rather than market-oriented urban farms.
- Easy-to-replicate, open source solution
The basic plan is to make as many of these as possible and give them out.
Two things will make this easy for people to adopt: 1. We use sub-irrigated planters. This is a type of container that combines the best of modern hydroponics with old-fashioned dirt-farming. They have a reservoir at the bottom for water and air, so:
- they use less water and fertilizer
- they only have to be watered every few days
- they're very productive (and harder to mess up) because the plant always has as much air and water as it needs
- they're lightweight
- they can be made from waste items like food buckets and water bottles.
2. We create a short, simple guide to growing food in sub-irrigated planters in NYC. The guide breaks growing down into simple options for beginners, depending on how many containers they'd like to try. It would:
- be specific to NYC climate and the particular container we use
- give only a few options to choose from (if you grow one plant, grow plant A, if you grow two plants, grow plants A and B etc)
- focus on the plants that are easiest to grow
- give very specific watering and care instructions for those particular plants.
No long internet searches for information, no reading gardening books, no contradictory instructions from different sources.
Here's how I can see us doing it:
Phase 1 Feb - March
- We connect with restaurants and dumpster-dive to gather a large number of food-grade 5 gallon buckets.
- We collect food waste to produce as much finished compost as possible before planting season.
- We create the growing guide mentioned above.
- Fund-raise or go to GA for whatever money we decide we need
Phase 2 April - May
- We create sub-irrigated planters from the materials collected, plant as many of them as possible according to the directions in the guide.
- We distribute these through neighborhood community organizations and maybe schools, and at events we create. Focus on low-income areas.
- We do a publicity campaign around these personal mini-farms. Little pop-up occupations outside supermarkets with mini-farm teach-ins, give mini-farms to journalists, city officials, the mayor, and so on. Maybe come up with some cheesy branding for the whole thing (iFarms?).
Phase 3 Ongoing
- Create a long-term infrastructure to keep aspects of the campaign going (maybe some kind of workers co-op selling or servicing affordable mini-farms made from recycled materials?).
- Provide support for mini-farmers, create online community etc
Stuff we'll need that isn't free:
- Potting mix. Sub-irrigated planters can't use soil or pure compost because those don't bring the water up from the reservoir properly. I'm working on finding something we can use that's free/recycled, but we may have to buy some of this.
- Space to store materials, raise seedlings and put together the mini-farms.
- Printing of the growing guide.
Some positive side effects of all this (apart from better nutrition, disengagement from oppressive food system, increased sustainability and all that):
- Distributing free mini-farms through community organizations will be a great outreach opportunity. We're offering something free and positive for people outside of OWS to use.
- The campaign can raise awareness of issues of food justice, food security and poverty.
- We'll be turning waste into production.
- Once people try this, they'll hopefully get hooked and grow more and more.
- If the shit hits the fan and food prices go through the roof, we'll be on hand with a partial solution that's practical, sustainable and equitable.
- All aspects of the campaign will be easy for other people to replicate. Contagious open source urban farming.
- These mini-farms will also be great for moving into vacant lots where we don't have permission. If we get wind that we'll be kicked out, we just take them somewhere else.