|Map of Nicosia (source)
||Edible Estates’ Regional Prototype Garden #3, Maplewood, New Jersey, 2007 (source)
Locality relies on context to determine its boundaries. These contexts need not be geographical—they may exist on psychological, economic, sensorial, familial, and temporal levels. Additionally, localities can be expressed in varying degrees of specificity. Highly specific localities emerge from commonly held concerns, desires, and experiences. In contrast, generalized localities often reflect an outsiders snap-shot of a culture or context, void of its particularities.
Nicosia is the only divided capital-city in the world. After the Turkish invasion of 1974, it was bisected, along with the rest of the island, into two halves: one half belonging to the Greek Cypriots and the other half to the Turkish Cypriots. Each half of Nicosia exists in a perplexing spatial limbo in relation to the other: cleanly divided, yet sutured together. Although the two sides share an island the size of Connecticut and are in undeniably close proximity, they do not share a locality. To assert that you are from Cyprus requires a clarification pertaining to which side, in order to stake claim to a particular spatial and cultural position. Maps of Nicosia typically show the road names and cultural icons of only one half (alternating, depending on which side made the map you happen to belong to), showing the other side of the city as unexplored or unknown, akin to early world maps from the sixteenth century which vaguely depicted the portions of the world that were foreign or inaccessible.
If you ask an outsider if the two halves of the city are local, they will likely respond ‘yes’, because on a map, these areas are adjacent. To be local to Nicosia is to understand that these adjacent halves are worlds apart.
In North America, the average meal travels 1500 miles from where it is grown to where it is eaten. While this sound bite does not take into account the complex scientific, economic and political factors at play in contemporary agribusiness, it does illustrate one significant and somewhat absurd side effect of our current system. But, rather than focus on indicting an industry, I would like to use my space here to describe a possibility that is related to the local food movement, but which also has broad implications for urban form.
As a segue, I would like to quickly introduce Edible Estates, a project by landscape designer Fritz Haeg, described on his website as ‘an ongoing initiative to create a series of regional prototype gardens that replace domestic front lawns and other unused spaces in front of homes with places for families to grow their own food.”‘.
What if an entire neighborhood was full of Edible Estates? What are the implications of transforming the ubiquitous suburban front yard into an infrastructure for the production of food? I am imagining a scenario where homeowners pool their resources—quite literally sharing a portion of their privately owned property—and form a sort of consumer co-operative.
With a neighborhood-scaled co-operative structure in place, each lawn would not be burdened with growing a diverse range of foods. Several adjacent lawns would grow potatoes, a few more could grow spinach, maybe a particular street would grow only tomatoes (eventually renamed Tomato Place), and so on. Depending on the lifestyle and demographic make-up of a given neighborhood of Edible Estates, the co-op would either be farmed by its owners, or the farming tasks would be contracted out.
While this scale of farming may not be sufficient to wholly feed its neighborhood (depending on density and the amount of open space per capita in a given neighborhood), if implemented broadly enough, it could significantly reduce the need for the long range distribution of fruits and vegetables. In time, this localized, grassroots strategy (pun intended) could have an impact on national agribusiness models which are dependent on nearly monopolistic economies of scale.