Verde values reflected in Food Bank garden project

David Gershon knows what it takes to move mountains (of people).

Greg Harman

[email protected]

I'm at Pearl a week post publication of The Urban-Garden Revolution, a look at the many organizations and motivated individuals putting the victory back in Victory Gardens. At the front of the room a silver-haired dignitary of common-sense consumption, who in another life (and with another dose of fervency) could have been a minister of the airwaves, is directing a roomful of local sustainability-minded policy makers in the methods of manipulating mass behavior.

The secret, it appears, is in human connectedness, or, more appropriately, the alienation of modern urbanity. Tweets, it would appear, don't change culture. Even the best run social-media campaign falls before flesh-and-blood door knockers preaching neighborhood meet-ups, said David Gershon, founder of the Empowerment Institute, a professional training institute. “People don't have access to their neighbors, and they would like to know their neighbors.”

Once networked into small “eco teams” of buddied-up homeowners, 40 percent of residents were easily motivated to recycle, Gershon's study of 20,000 individuals found. Further, 32 percent decreased their water use, and 14 percent started using less energy. It was unclear from the talk, however, how many willingly surrendered their firearms or agreed to be injected with RFID tracking chips. Those sorts of details were difficult to come by. Despite an ample Q&A period, my inner Libertarian refused to manifest such outrageous speculation and conspiracy.

I was probably too absorbed in the garden flyer positioned at each place setting.

It appeared I had overlooked a serious gardening effort at the San Antonio Food Bank, or at least an interesting twist on an established effort.

Let me say right now that I stand by the assertion I made last week that Mission Verde, the City's sustainability plan with roots in the waning days of the Hardberger era but getting a thorough going-over under Julián Castro's rising star, is best described as an energy plan that has given the potentials of local agriculture short shrift. It wasn't intended to be a significant criticism, just a statement of fact.

But an email message seeking to expand my reality, let's say, and this Bexar County news release have inspired me to offer the clarification that I do not now, nor did I then, believe that Verde is anti garden.

Reading on: the City and the County are ponying up solar-powered pumps, rainwater catchment, and drip irrigation to save the small farm an estimated 1,250 kilowatt hours per year.

Just last week I had given props to a goodly crop of local green thumbs while the big-picture bureaucrats running Verde got imprecisely panned. Was I secretly angry that Ol' Man Hardberger has refused to return my phone calls for the past two years? How petty â?¦ could â?¦ I â?¦ be?

While I would have loved to include this expression of institutionalized local-ag revolutionalism in my story (and did call the place twice), at the end of the day I'd rather have missed this than any of the smaller-scale grassroots actions taking place around the City. After all, for San Antonio's top-down sustainability effort, it is reaching the grassroots that is the challenge. While community action groups work their mailing lists, phone banks, and door knockers, San Antonio planners are investing in top-shelf facilitators like Gershon to reintroduce ourselves to ourselves. (And, no. I'm not making any small thing of that.)

I shot gobs of video and still shots until I realized this really was a talk directed at insiders. And if you were really so interested in all the sneaky tricks local officials are going to use to introduce you to the guy next door who by all appearances is building a house beneath his house from 3 am to sun-up each and every morning â?¦ well, I'm sorry.

What I can say is that Gershon's “green living” handbook is about to become required reading for City employees. It's even foreseeable the workbook could result in some spontaneous acts of trickle-down inner-city agriculture.

But what my chastisement of Verde's focus perhaps didn't make clear last week is that the program was built to grow. These solar pumps at the Spurs Garden are just one example of that growth. There are plenty more where that came from. What more can I say? Have you hugged a city planner today?

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