Cropping Up: Urban farming
Aldine Grossi was a major Salt Lake punk rocker back in the eighties and nineties and played in multiple punk rock bands.
“I was in a band called Poisoned Idea. That was in late 1989 and part of 1990 and I played on one of their really critically acclaimed records and it's called Feel the Darkness.
My other band was Maimed for Life. And you know, it was it was kind of crazy,” said Aldine Grossi.
Aldine is now known around Salt Lake City as the Punk Rock Farmer, a name given to him by his longtime friend and colleague, Lara Jones. With Lara, he co-hosts Punk Rock Farmer Fridays on KRCL community radio and touts the bounties of growing your own food garden at home in the city.
“I have the two 40 x 40 plots in the backyard. So, I can have a big squash patch. And I can grow some corn if I want and I grow like 30 tomatoes. And so this was instilled to me through my heritage really. And coming back to it hasn't been a real surprise. It's been like kind of a cool thing,” said Grossi.
Aldine’s passion for growing fruits and vegetables started when he was just 6-years-old, when his father bought a 68-acre farm in central New York, complete with a 14-room farmhouse surrounded by giant old maple trees. They also had chickens and a few angus cows.
“And you know to live on a farm again would be great. But being an urban farmer, growing nutrient dense food in the city is about as punk rock as it gets,” said Grossi.
If you are wondering how urban farming is punk rock - well, the punk movement was made up of beliefs such as anti-corporatism, anti-consumerism, a do-it-yourself ethic, anti-corporate greed, direct action, and not "selling out." It seems that as an urban farmer, Aldine is promoting the same ethos he had as a young musician but now promoting it with gardening instruments on a different stage.
“I am really, really about promoting the local small farm scene and getting people to, you know, to grow some food in your backyard,” said Grossi.
And one way to jump into the scene, Aldine says, is to participate in the seed exchanges, which he contributes to regularly.
“If we all grow food and we save some seed, and we bolster a regional or local seed bank, we'll always have food right here at home. You don't have to look anywhere else. One seed has the amazing capacity, it can make it can feed millions of people if you save it,” said Grossi.
In fact, you can swap seeds across the Wasatch Front at a variety of seed exchanges including libraries like the Salt Lake County Public Library, where you can get seeds for free.
“And you don't have to bring any, you can go and get some,” said Grossi.
To get started, Aldine says all you need is a little piece of dirt, even if all you have is a pot.
“You can throw out some lettuce seeds or some greens, or maybe some Swiss chard or something like that. And just take a little spot and throw some seeds out in your backyard and grow some food. You'll get the bug, you'll catch it. And I'm going to tell you that you are going to love the flavor and taste that you get and you'll never do anything else but grow your own food. It's just a no brainer. I promise it really is,” said Grossi.
The rewards are deliciously fresh food but food security is the heart of the issue. The majority of Utah’s food is imported and if the food supply chain is completely cut off, its estimated food availability would only last up to two weeks. That’s why Sheridan Hansen, assistant professor of horticulture at Utah State University Extension, says it’s important to gain the skills to grow.
“If you are really interested in it, you can convert a space in your yard to a nice garden so that you can get your hands in the soil. You can teach yourself how to grow, you can teach your kids, your family. And the great thing about it is you are going to contribute something to your livelihood, to your health, to your mental well-being. The mental effects of connecting with the earth this way is massive as well.
We want to make sure we are contributing to our food supply, we are also gaining all of those wonderful things out of the garden,” said Hansen.