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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:29 am 
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San Francisco has long been a place for unusual sights, and the current scene outside City Hall is no different. An edible, organic garden has sprouted in place of the building’s lawn, and it has taken root with Mayor Gavin Newsom’s blessing. The garden is a project by Slow Food, a non-profit group committed to reacquainting people with the food they eat and to consuming food grown locally.

Known as a Victory Garden in reference to similar projects during the 1940s to counter wartime food shortages, Slow Food finished the two-week planting project on July 12 with an opening ceremony attended by Mayor Newsom.

“Most people don’t know what their food looks like or how it grows,” said Slow Food’s Naomi Starkman. In order to help people “make the connection between plate and planet,” Starkman said, the group has planned Slow Food Nation ‘08, a three-day celebration of food over Labor Day Weekend. The Victory Garden is the event’s centerpiece. “We wanted to create a demonstration of the future of food in America,” Starkman said.

During Slow Food Nation, visitors will be able to take part in demonstrations to learn more about growing locally. In an effort with local food banks and meal programs, the produce from the garden will be donated to people with limited access to organic produce, Slow Food said.

In deciding a location for the event, Slow Food thought San Francisco was an obvious choice. The city’s Department for the Environment is also actively taking part in the local food movement with a pilot project to create organic food production in yards, window boxes, rooftops and unused land. That project was started in conjunction with a local organic food organization, Garden for the Environment.

Supporting the Victory Garden at City Hall enabled the city to emphasize its commitment to the cause, Mayor Newsom said in a statement. “I want to continue to challenge those cynics that just say that this is some elitist movement out there in the West Coast of the United States,” he said at the July 1 opening of the garden. “It’s about our suburban areas being connected to our rural areas, and being connected to our urban areas. This is an urban setting, a dense urban environment, one of the densest urban centers in America, yet here we are planting gardens.”

Garden for the Environment, CMG Landscape Architecture and City Slicker Farms, a creator of farms and gardens, designed and built the garden. Seeds of Change, along with individuals from across the country, donated seeds, Slow Nation said.

Founded in 1989 and based in Bra, Italy, Slow Food hosts other large events in Italy. Slow Food Nation is the group’s first large event in the US, but it hopes to hold more in other cities in the future, Starkman said

WSJ Digital Network

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