Slow Food Nation Victory Garden: Planting July 12 | Civil Eats

Slow Food Nation Victory Garden: Planting July 12

Beginning July 1, the lawn of San Francisco’s City Hall will undergo a transformation from grass carpet to edible garden. The installation of the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden marks the first time that City Hall has hosted an edible garden since 1943. We will begin by pulling up turf (which will be replanted in other parts of the City’s green areas) and planting beets, lettuce, kale and many other heritage varieties of vegetables. The food grown in the garden—most of which will be ready for harvest during Slow Food Nation’s Labor Day event—will be donated to those with limited access to healthy, organic produce through a partnership with local food banks and meal programs.

Slow Food Nation is producing this project in partnership with Victory Gardens 2008+, whose mission is to respond to the social and ecological challenges that San Franciscans and all urban residents face in creating more self reliant, ecologically sound and socially just urban human habitats.

The Victory Garden project takes its name from 20th Century wartime efforts to address food shortages by encouraging citizens to plant gardens on public and private land. In the early 1940s, gardens sprouted in front yards and vacant lots, and produced 40 percent of the nation’s vegetables. San Francisco’s victory program became one of the best in the country; Golden Gate Park alone had 250 garden plots.

The SF Victory Garden program redefines “Victory” in the context of modern urban sustainability: “Victory” means growing food at home for increased local food security and to reduce the food miles associated with the average American meal, not to mention as a way of saving money during a time of economic instability. As Deborah Madison pointed out today at Culinate, the Victory Gardens of WWII exist only as memory and history, but in the near future “we might once again have to feed ourselves, and even if we don’t have to, there’s much to be said for growing some food and working outdoors.”

The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden will serve as a demonstration and education centerpiece leading up to and following our Labor Day event, providing visitors the opportunity to learn about urban food production practices.

We’re looking for volunteers—experienced gardeners and novices alike—to help us keep the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden thriving from July – September 2008. For more details and to enroll as a Victory Garden Volunteer, please email your contact information and availability to with “Victory Garden” in the subject line.

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Renderings courtesy of SMWM Architecture, Urban Design + Planning

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Sarah Rich is an editor at Dwell magazine, where she specializes in sustainable design and architecture. She was the managing editor of the Slow Food Nation blog leading up to the inaugural 2008 event in San Francisco. She was also the managing editor and co-author of the book Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century (Abrams, 2006). Sarah lives in the Mission district of San Francisco where fog is scarce and tacos are not. Read more >

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  1. What a marvelous idea. It's a nice combination of a symbolic statement and a practical action. It's one thing for a city to talk about something like community gardening or victory gardens, but to do it in such a public way seems more likely to inspire others to do the same.

    I wonder if we could encourage Seattle's City Hall to do something similar. There is no green space in front of City Hall, but perhaps there's another idea that would work here.

    Seattle Local Food
  2. Eric Minnichhofer
    The vision is happening right NOW. As I walk to the beach from my house in the sunset I imagine half of the sidewalk filled with planters ready for a breakfast feast. What a great idea. Please let me know how I canbecome a part of this wonderful project!!!
  3. We have a long growing season down here in Houston and to combat the concrete downtown and edible movable garden sounds like a great idea! What about replacing regular shade trees with fruit trees!!!! Thanks San Fran!!!
  4. Elizabeth2007
    Lovely idea, lovely memories many have of this concept now updated and improved, and wonderful to see SF continuing to lead the way in sustainability.
  5. hara
    While everyone is patting themselves on the back, would the slow food people consider helping or adopting the non-profit "heart in the city farmer market" while it is re-negotiate their lease with the city? This farmers market occurs every Wednesday and Sunday in UN plaza right next to City Hall. This market allows many low income and marginal people (mostly immigrants) living in the Tenderloin/Soma neighborhoods access to fresh produce that is not available in their area. Last month the city of SF tried to take over the non-profit market and faced much neighborhood opposition to its plan. So the city is forcing the market to re-negotiate its lease (currently $1 but the city wants $8,000!). This market will not survive such a large increase in rent: food prices will increase and locals will not be able to afford the new prices. The market is not at all like the Ferry Building or the slow food garden. I know most of the market's produce is not organic but it is still filling a need in many SF resident's lives. If the market closes, tenderloin/soma residents may need to supplement their food with food banks or go hungry.
    Drop by the market and see it in action - on Sunday morning a wide section of SF is out shopping there.
    Please help by adopting the market and raising its awareness with the city government during the slow food events.
  6. Great to see you guys taking the lead on promoting the nascent Victory Garden revival! There's so much buzz online already...this project will assuredly generate even more. Good work!
  7. Gallery 16 Editions just released a 102 page book "Victory Gardens 2007+" that chronicles
    Amy Franceschini's inspired reimagining of the original wartime Victory Garden program. The book features essays by Lucy Lippard and Mike Davis along with historical photos and context, and project documentation and insight.

    Franceschini's Victory Gardens 2007+ was presented as a series of actions, sculptural icons, and ephemera during the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SECA Award show in January of 2007. The project was initially a small pilot program designed to evolve into a larger plan for a city supported food system. The goal was to create a community of food producers through public outreach and education.

    The book will be sold at the groundbreaking of the Victory garden at San Francisco City Hall on July 12th. Copies are also available Gallery 16 in San Francisco. 415 626 7495.
  8. kimberly
    There are many reasons to fall in love with San Francisco. This is only one. But it's a good one. I applaud those who've donated time and money to these efforts. This is an amazing idea and I look forward to the results. Hats off!
  9. It's a terrific idea, too bad it's all going to be "ripped up" after a couple of months.
  10. Amy

    Thank you for the alert about the proposed city takeover of the Heart of the City farmers' market.

    To help keep the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market as a community oriented place, visit the market on Sunday or Wednesday and sign the petition. Call the Mayor’s Office at (415)554-6171. The Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee is holding a hearing to discuss the mayor’s proposed takeover on Thursday, June 19, 5 p.m., in City Hall Room 250.

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