When I first heard of The New York Times article about farms experiencing a hipster invasion of sorts, it left me with an image of  young fashionable twenty-somethings breaking into farms and fashioning ironic mustaches onto a bevy of unsuspecting farm animals.

That ‘stache is lookin’ tight, horse!” –anonymous hipster farmer/ rebel.

The article, upon further inspection (aka: reading),  does not focus on the terminology “hipster” but more so on the notion that this sudden interest in farming internships is a  trend among young adults. The internet buzz surrounding the article seems to be translating this, rightfully or wrongfully, as an article focused on hipster farming.

It is likely that this surge has nothing to do with “hipsters“ -a seemingly arbitrary term that is tossed about with spite by people who could easily fit into some aspect of the alleged “hipster” mold themselves about other people who fit into other aspects of the mold, but more to do with a pattern of behavior among a certain age group.  This inter-hipster hate is sort of like Christians hating on Judaism, or vice versa, for either being too religious…the age old tale of the pot, calling the kettle black.

Perhaps this growth in interest in internships of a sustainable nature shows the effects on the collective consciousness of a generation of people who came to age in time of immediate information–where factory farming was being publicly decried and  the environment was continuously being protected by a leftist blog community…AP, I am looking at us! (This conspiracy runs deep, I tells ya’!)

Between the great recession and the constant influx of discoveries of  the over the top ways in which we- especially in the Western world- tend to live and how these lifestyle choices negatively effect the environment has left some people looking for alternative ways of  approaching their day to day lives. By rejecting the notion of “consume, consume, consume” that is shoved down our throats from birth, and embracing fully their role in living a sustainable lifestyle, they are fully practicing what they are preaching.  Instead of reducing these people to a label, we should give them appreciative head nod…sudden movements are known to scare hipsters….I kid, I joke therefore I am.

Evan Dayringer, an intern at the farm featured in the Times article, explains, “…you don’t get a lot more fundamental than farming. So really I’m hoping it’ll be almost like a vehicle: I’ve got farming, I’ve got food, I’ve got shelter, I’ve got people, and then I can incorporate things into that as I go forward.”

“Think Globally, Act Locally” is being personified in someone like this young lad. He shouldn’t be reduced to a stereotype and therefore dismissed as a useless hipster- a term that implies that someone is only embracing a belief, a fashion or an artist because it is oozing trendiness.

Throughout history, youth has often been equated with an openness to embrace a movement, the most obvious example being the hippies of the sixties and their anti-war/ pro getting high on reefer movement. It is important to not pass sustainable life choices off as a passing fad embraced only by hip youths. who do not know enough about disappointment. Eco-friendly living is to be applauded, especially when practiced in such a productive all-encompassing manner.

In addition to these accolades, we should encourage each other -both those young and hipper than us and those old fuddy duddies who watch the weather channel for fun-to not pass this lifestyle off as something that is a finite, passing craze that will be considered lame or dreadfully passé  in another five years. Eco-friendly living is not Pogs, bell bottoms, or rollerblading backwards downtown in gold lame hot pants (wait, that may have just been me) and should not be seen as something that is only embraced for some type of coolness factor.

Regardless of how you feel about eco-lifestyles or hipsters,  when the zombie apocalypse inevitably occurs, locate the nearest hipster and beg them to school you in the ways of organic farming, they are easily located by the lens less fashion glasses and their knowledge of bands you have never heard of. They may be your only hope of survival.

I kid, or do I? Dun, dun, dun!!!

-Meghan Hurley

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It strikes one as an oxymoron.  Guerrilla gardening.  Hardcore soldier resistance tactics meets backyard tomato seed planting. But yes, in action in urban spaces around the world, this is the increasing truth.  Growing one’s own food, as an individual or for a community, is a concept lost on more and more people in affluent societies today.  The disconnect is complete; modern economics allows people to consume goods produced in ways unknown to them, in places they will never see, due both to a lack of knowledge and exposure, as well as unsuitable conditions in which to create, or grow, these goods themselves.

Guerrilla gardening is a practice and a movement aimed at changing this, and the concept is spreading through example, in the mysterious appearances of plants in forgotten patches of earth in the hearts of cities, and the growing network of support, advice and encouragement among fellow gardeners in publication and on the Internet.

You’re walking down the block in your town or city, perhaps right outside your front door, and you glance over or miss completely a barren plot of dry, trash-strewn earth; perhaps on the sidewalk where no tree or shrub grows, perhaps in a massive concrete planter, or maybe in a forgotten, chain-fenced lot with some links conveniently severed.  This dirt you pass is useful; anything you might like to look at, or like to eat or use for a gift, could grow there with a bit of care and attention. But nothing does, and nothing is done about it, for the idea of planting such useful plants in an urban context doesn’t immediately make sense; it is an alien concept.

We buy what we need in the city, we don’t walk to a bus stop to harvest a stem from our favorite flower or peak into an alley to see how our pea shoots are growing on the back fence of an auto garage.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  People can reclaim the space around them.  You can shape it as you see fit.  Do it boldly in the middle of the day, start a conversation when you get curious questions.  Do it quietly in the middle of the night, away from disapproving eyes.  The spirit of a guerrilla lies in disruption through unconventional, unexpected and innovative means. The disruption is the redefining of what inhabitants of a city call home, bringing the ancient into the modern, the natural into the manufactured.  It is a chance to feel that you can create what you need and desire, that you need not wait for others to do it for you.  And in this struggle, which is inherently communal, you are not alone. There are plenty of communities and resources on the handy worldwide web, so for ideas, info and inspiration, please see:

Guerrilla Gardening: A world community organization including tips, pictures, blogs, and local community boards.

Primal Seeds: A guide to the guerrilla gardening movement and a great resource from other guerrilla gardeners and communities.

Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardening: Even if you are not located in LA, the LA movement is going strong and has plenty of ideas for inspiration.

And if the interwebs just aren’t your thing check out these two hardcover books: On Guerrilla Gardening and Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto

-Jeremy Pearson

Detroit, once a modern city thriving with industry, is sadly decaying and often reported as one of America’s most dangerous cities.  Parts of the city will remind one of the ghost towns of the west with whole city blocks left abandoned and forgotten by time.  However, there is a faction of the community, which has now turned mainstream,  pushing to do something unheard of! They are proposing the city’s economically ravished neighborhoods be turned back into farmland. The new farms will produce crops not only to feed the city’s population but to generate revenue. An idea on this scale has never been attempted before and would be an amazing feat if actualized.

The idea to turn urban landscape back to original farmland was first proposed in the 90’s when Detroit was already a city falling to ruin. However, with the latest recession, the city has seen the fallout play out tenfold. With the retreat of the automobile industry, the city has little left to fuel its economy and has some residents scavenging the urban landscape for food: even turning to rodent meat at times. There are no concrete details as of yet, the basic plan is to demolish largely abandoned neighborhoods and turn them into cultivating farmland. The city would be re-structured to include an Urban Core at the center and urban pockets and farmland stretching out around the core. New Geography did a great article and provided maps and pictures of the New Detroit plan. Commuters that once drove through miles upon miles of suburban and urban sprawl could possibly commute through miles of pristine farmland.

This plan, of course, is the hope for the future. Currently the mayor, Dave Bing, is trying to put forth a plan that will begin with demolishing some 10,000 abandoned homes and buildings within the next 3 years and pour investment money into stronger and more populated neighborhoods. This feat is a good starting place and looking at the whole plan may seem daunting, as metro Detroit is larger than the cities of San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan combined! However, supporters of the plan are confident this can be done, pointing out that other urban cities have done similar downsizing plans such as Youngstown,OH. And Detroit leads the way in urban farming with over 500 small farm plots currently supplying food for some of the city’s poorest residents. Mayor Bing has also pointed out that with the recession and budget out of control, the city can no longer afford to patrol the most abandoned neighborhoods.

The idea of downsizing urban areas sounds amazing and we love the innovation. However, there are some serious issues to consider. First, the funding for such a massive project of this scale will be through the roof. Detroit will either have to raise taxes, and with much of the city struggling this is unlikely, or look to the Federal government for funding. On top of funding political and socio-economic issues will come in to play. For instance who will decide which neighborhood to demolish and if people are still living in those sections of the city, what will happen to them? There is already backlash for some residents in this regard, as many have occupied their homes for generations. Just one look at history, and we know displacement is not an easy thing! Another issue to consider is where is all the waste from the demolition going to end up? Hopefully not landfills! And since this is an old city there are infrastructures to consider such as plumbing and power lines. Both will take extra energy to uproot not to mention money. We also hope the soil will be farm-able after centuries of industrial waste and occupation.

Whatever the issues are, the idea of reversing urban expansion and turning it into green space, growing crops to feed and bring in revenue for a whole city, is inspiring. We hope to see more details and a full plan produced in the coming years. If Detroit can pull it off, it will be inspirational for many cities dealing with recession woes and a shrinking population and growth. Is this a turn towards de-modernization of our current idea of the urban landscape? Is this just one hair brain scheme or are we on the cusp of a new era in cultural organization?

-Gina Williams

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