03 August 2009
Does urban agriculture really challenge the system?
I must be honest and say that I have had a soft spot for the Dervaes family since the year 2000. That was when they set up a website to support the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, a fight that I strongly supported. The archives of that original Path To Freedom site are still on-line, but the family have not been resting on their laurels ever since Elian returned home. Today, Path To Freedom is devoted to the family´s attempt to lead the green life in suburban Pasadena, California.
Have they succeeded? On one level clearly they have, since the family is pretty self-sufficient as far as food is concerned. However, on the other hand this family are not urban peasants, since they make an income of about U.S.$25,000 a year from the sale of their produce to local restaurants.
In other words the Dervaes family enterprise is basically in a symbiotic relationship with the capitalist economy. It does not challenge that economic system, rather it relies for its success on all those middle class types who want to eat green at upmarket restaurants. If the American economy continues to decline, then there must be some doubt as to just how sustainable the Dervaes model would be, given that people will need to economise.
Now this is not to say that folk shouldn´t grow a row of spuds in their back gardens, or keep a few chickens, since anything that helps to save a bob or two is a good idea.
Just so long as everyone understands that saving money is one thing and doing over the man, and the man´s bum suckers, is quite another.