Union Square was recently the open air venue for a scene that was part urban agriculture, part art piece. It brought to mind the Shaker proverb: “Don’t make anything unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”
The exhibit was a wall of Woolly Pockets: flexible pouches, made in the U.S. and comprised of recycled materials, that house plants on vertical surfaces. An ordinary wall becomes a living thing; watching people walk around it, the verdant sculptures hooked people in. Tourists took photos. Some people took bites. It was easy to the beauty and the usefulness.
But my favorite part was in the necessity of this idea. For example, for those of us who just finished watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, we learned that there’s a problem in our schools: Students don’t know where food comes from. At one point, Jamie held up an eggplant before a first grade class and no one could tell him what it was. Nor could they tell him that the French fry came from a potato.
The people behind Woolly Pockets understand this food illiteracy, so they also use their pieces to educate through vertical gardens. For $1,000, a school can start a fifty pocket garden, fully equipped with the soil, seed packets, planting and nutritional manuals. Their goal is to plant their unique form of gardening in 11,000 schools across the United States by 2011.
Perhaps we don’t have to go back to the land at all. Maybe some of it can come in with us.