31 Days of Urban Agriculture
Typography in a block print set that tells the story of food & farming in the concrete jungle.
31 Days of Urban Agriculture
Typography in a block print set that tells the story of food & farming in the concrete jungle.
Just 1 hour or less to go (project ends on Sat, Sep 13 2014 10:15 PM EDT) and new Climate & Farming Reward
New reward speaks to food and climate — give just $4 & choose that reward level and if fully funded I'll give you a download of my new climate piece, and I'll give 500 of them away at the People's Climate March on Sunday, September 21, 2014:
I love food. You love food. Who doesn't? Chances are most of us also dig the farmers who raise our food, especially the ones doing it sustainably and imaginatively. I really love those farmers and wanted to tell the story of how a new economy of entrepreneurs and DIYers are bringing farming right into the cities where most of us live. So I'm making a bunch of hand carved and handprinted art about it (and a chapbook of essays to go with the art) for an art show that's meant to tour from city to city — maybe even coming to your town. Watch the video and/or read below for more.
Scroll to the bottom of the story section to see expenses for this project.
Urban Ag or Farming in the Concrete Jungle
Goats mowing lawns in Richmond, bees on rooftops in London, chickens laying eggs in Brooklyn — these are just a few of the ways that farming is returning to cities, creating new business opportunities, more resilience, and safer places, all while offering the empowerment and money-saving benefits of DIY living.
For those of us steeped in this world, urban agriculture is a no-brainer — we're already starting city foodie businesses and doing urban farming to get better food with a smaller carbon footprint.
But for others, farming in cities is a head-scratcher. Why should we do it? It sounds dirty and smelly! Isn't that for hayseeds and hicks? Don't city people get food from grocery stores?
Clearly urban agriculture needs some PR and visibility to help link it to the benefits of a better climate, healthier food, personal and community empowerment, food security, entrepreneurialism, and fun!
Urban agriculture has been featured in documentaries and books, helping to get the word out to fans of local food. But still, growing serious amounts of food inside cities remains a new idea to most folks.
Fortunately, there's another way to share the city farming story: ART.
That's why I'm doing 31 Days of Urban Agriculture, a show designed to be accessible, educational, and mobile — have art, will travel.
Combining my lifelong love of poster design — or to use the old school word, broadsides — with typography and images, I'm designing, cutting, and printing 31 art pieces to tell the story of urban agriculture in a simple, accessible way. Really, it's a story of beauty and the beast. First, there are the beauties — from bees and apple trees on Main Streets to farmers markets right downtown, and even DIY screens made of hops vines on the balconies of home brewers. And then there are the beasts, especially the danger of neighborhood food deserts and food insecurity that so many urban families face in today's economy.
Everyone eats food, so everyone needs to hear this story. To get the word out to the biggest number of people, the show is designed to be hung both in galleries and in pieces right on city streets.
Well, before you read this part, understand that if you read on, you'll see that while this show is inspired by Virginia, it's not meant simply for Virginia.
So why 31 days?
It's a crazy thing, really.
In 2013, the otherwise very conservative General Assembly in my state, Virginia, passed a resolution declaring October 2013 — and every October thereafter — to be Virginia's "Urban Agriculture Month."
I thought that was a swell idea. So I decided I'd do my citizenly part to treat Urban Ag Month as more than just a symbolic gesture by making a bunch of art about it.
In fact, as part of the show I'm even cutting that whole resolution — Virginia Joint Resolution 758 — by hand. The Resolution is really fun (and well written — it shows why we urgently need to get back to farming and food production in cities).
In addition to my own traveling show, I'm also donating a full set of the prints and a hand-cut rendition of the Resolution to the Commonwealth of Virginia to help promote Virginia's Urban Agriculture Month each year.
So this show is not only about art and education. It's also about activism.
Each piece will have its own short essay going into more detail about that facet of urban agriculture, giving context and further detail to the ideas presented. All of the essays* will be combined into a little chapbook to go with the show.
Yet, even though the inspiration is from Virginia's Urban Agriculture Month, that doesn't make it only applicable to Virginia.
In an age of fossil fuel decline, a lagging economy, and the need to heal our food system, this story is important to all people, wherever they live and eat, and that's why the show is being prepared to be a traveling show throughout Virginia and well beyond.
Crowdsourcing the ideas
In addition to seeking funding, I'm also seeking ideas and even image inspiration.
To that end, anyone can go to my website and submit ideas that you think should be included in an art show about urban agriculture and/or critical points that should be made in the essays. You can even submit an image and, if used, I'll adapt it with my own spin onto the block print and typography.
Just as farming is a painstaking process, so is linoleum-block cutting. In honor of the unknowns, imperfections, and happy accidents in food and farming, these hand-cut blocks are formed by the conditions of the process. They take time and, due to the carving and hand-printing process, they differ from printing to printing, resulting in pieces that have energy and unpredictability. A block printer composes and cuts and then, when its finally time to print — as for the farmer, when it's finally time to harvest — there's magic in what emerges.
I take my inspiration from a wide variety of sources, operating in a mixed media style that draws on images throughout history re-adapted to new ends. And I usually add typography or lettering, but not always.
Opening and tour
My show is opening in my hometown of Staunton, Virginia on September 26th at Black Swan Books and will run through the month of October — for Urban Agriculture Month, of course! We'll have a reception, live printing demo, local food and music, and souvenirs.
After October the prints will go on tour to...wherever. I'm in talks right now about potential spots and I welcome interest from places interested in hosting a show. Any funding received beyond my funding goal will allow the show to travel immediately.
Part of this project is to get the pieces out and about. That's why so many of my rewards include reproduction and limited-edition original pieces from the show** along with permission to mount a version of the show wherever you are. And while the show will be fun and educational as a whole, using all 31 Days, it's also flexible enough to be hung in parts: Because of the use of text on each poster and accompanying essays, pieces can stand alone, be grouped in themes, or be randomly grouped in smaller showings.
In addition to the framed fine art pieces, I'll be doing kraft paper prints for posters that can just be slapped up at street level to get people wondering, What the heck are goat mowers? How do fish tanks grow lettuce? And why should we revive local grain and milling industries for more craft beer and fresh local bread when we can already get both at supermarkets?
In short, we're going to tell this story and tell this story and tell this story. And make cool pictures!
Hey, why's Joel Salatin in your video? -- He's not a city farmer
Maybe you're wondering why the world's most famous farmer is in my video, especially since he farms under wide-open rural spaces.
Well, Joel Salatin is my neighbor — sort of. His farm is about ten miles from my place in town. I'm lucky, huh? I get to shop at his farm store on a regular basis. Hmmm, bacon!
But like me, Joel is also active in the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, a group that brings sustainable family farmers together with people who eat, and who mostly live in cities. I've also been lucky enough to work with Joel on other food and farming projects in our area.
And I was the editor of Joel's most recent book, Fields of Farmers.
Yes, Joel is a rural farmer. And urban farming will never replace rural farming. But Joel's an advocate for everyone getting their hands in the dirt — kids especially — so that we can have more food security, individual know-how, and a saner, healthier food system.
So I asked Joel what he thought about a traveling art show to tell the urban farming story and he was pleased to help me make my pitch. Thanks Joel!
You'll also see in the film the garden I founded, The Newtown Community Garden, so thanks also to my peeps in Transition Staunton.
Ellen Butchart, Program Director of The Allegheny Mountain School, also agreed to help me make the case. AMS is a experiential program that trains Fellows to teach people to grow food in place. They advocate local agriculture, both rural and urban. She's passionate about how that all relates together to foster stronger, happier, more productive and engaging people and communities.Thanks Ellen!
Fellows from the Allegheny Mountain School let us show off the urban educational farm they developed here in Staunton in collaboration with the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. So thanks to Trevor Piersol, Emily Melvin, and Ben Samuelson of the (VSDB) Educational Farm.
My friend, the brilliant filmmaker Brian Wimer made my video for me and offered lots of advice. Thanks Brian!
The largest expense is the conservation framing of 31 pieces, a title piece, and the Virginia Resolution. Other costs include chapbook production and printing, art supplies, studio time, marketing, opening event expenses, fees, fulfillment, taxes, and miscellaneous.
The newest piece, on aquaponics, has been posted on my blog.
My coming piece, on sustainable farming and community building training programs, will be out by Sunday.
*You can see a ton of my essays on food, conservation, energy, peak oil, politics, society, culture and more on my website blog.
**Original hand-printed pieces on Japanese kitakata paper are all limited-editions of no more than 50 of each piece.
Risks and challenges
The pressure, the pressure! :)
Thirty-one hand-cut pieces, plus a title piece — the word-packed Virginia Resolution on Urban Agriculture Month — plus a Chapbook of Essays? Ouch, that's a lot of hand work with intricate typography and a lot of head work on the intellectual front. I'm going to have to be consistent, fast, accurate, and prolific.
And I'm going to have to do so in an un-air conditioned studio in August and September in steamy, steamy Virginia. Help me, Jesus!
I also discovered that a slew of "discount" linoleum blocks I purchased just aren't up to the quality I expect, so I have to set those aside and repurchase new, better quality blocks, which has slowed things down a bit.
Add to this the fact that I've already started talking to the legislators who made the Resolution and folks around various state agencies, all of whom have graciously shown interest in the project so far and...well, let's just say people are expecting results — and an invitation to the opening!
Thankfully I've already started making the pieces, writing essays and carved out the studio time in my work schedule to get it all done by the various deadlines: the print deadline, the framing deadline, and the installation deadline.
Of course other things could go wrong, like messing up a block and having to chuck it and start over, or getting a bad case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (NOTE: I have NOT historically had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), but mostly it's just the need to produce a piece roughly every three days from composition to the full cut to a successful print.
Fortunately as a longtime writer and editor I'm into deadlines so..let's get crackin'!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)