Broccoli, beets and more ‘Breaking Through Concrete’


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City sidewalks with weeds poking through the cracks might be what most people think of when they hear the title of the new book ‘Breaking Through Concrete.’ But that’s not what the authors have in mind.

The book chronicles a 2010 road trip to a dozen of the hundreds of urban farms that have sprouted recently, and those that have survived for years around the country -- farms that, the authors say, are the think tanks of a food revolution.


‘Breaking Through Concrete,’ by David Hanson and Edwin Marty with photographs by Michael Hanson, David’s brother, presents stories of hope and triumph over homelessness, over difficult municipal regulations, over hunger.

Marty, a founder of the Jones Valley Urban Farm in Birmingham, Ala., says he is part of ‘a dedicated core of urban farm entrepreneurs’ that is responding to interest in local food and urban life.

The farms operate in cities big and small, run by homeless people and neighborhood groups in vacant lots and on rooftops and in all climates around the U.S.

There’s the P-Patch Community Gardening Program that began nearly 40 years ago and spread from one site to dozens in Seattle, contributing 100,000 pounds of produce to food banks a year. In Santa Barbara, Fairview Gardens sits on land that’s been farmed for more than a century as houses and streets grew up around it.

One thing all the gardens share is a sense of optimism. As David Hanson put it: ‘Not many things say hope like green leaves breaking through concrete.’



Community gardens: a yearlong series

A world of plants in the Global Garden

Spring garden tours in Southern California

-- Mary MacVean

Upper photo: Seattle’s P-Patch gardens.

Lower photo: Annie Novak with a chicken at an urban farm in Brooklyn, N.Y. Credit: Michael Hanson