Fire Escape Gardener in New York City – Mike Lieberman
Last fall I wrote a book called Grow Wherever You Go where I explore the different places our gardens can live. One of the things that I did in the book was to reach out to the community for their urban farm stories. I have to tell you I received some incredible stories and was inspired by what I read. Each Tuesday I will be posting a new inspiring urban farm stories from all over the world. I actually received a response that I will post in the coming weeks from Thailand – woohoo.
My first post is about my friend Mike Lieberman the Fire Escape Gardener in New York City…Really – this is really incredible – check it out.
Fire Escape Gardener in New York City
I just started my fire escape garden in the spring of 2009. I wanted to reconnect with my food supply because it seems like we just kind of think of produce as “growing” in grocery store. We’ve kind of lost perspective on how food really grows. I was reading a book on eating locally and was amazed to learn that, on average, food travels up to 2,000 miles from the farm to our tables. Since I eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits I wanted to cut down on my food budget and get better connected with my food. I joined my local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and started going to farmer’s markets but even that food is grown far away or treated with pesticides. So I started reading more and asking for information from the growers at the farmer’s markets. You might think this is crazy, considering I live in an apartment in New York City, but it all came together when I discovered self-watering containers that I could make to fit in a space as small as a fire escape landing.
I made modified versions of ones that I saw online and was able to make them out of mostly recycled materials in 20 to 30 minutes for under $5. I put the directions on my website directions for the planters I make out of coffee cans, gallon jugs and two liter soda bottles. I cut the bottom part of the soda bottles off, reinforced them with duct tape and was able to hang them on the fire escape railing. All of this has been done within the fire code and apartment regulations and now I enjoy kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, sweet peppers, chili peppers, cherry tomatoes, basil, apple mint, Greek oregano and a type of parsley.
When you really think about it, food is essential to our lives and I want fresh real food, not the great science experiment that we call processed or GMO’d food. I was told that food has changed more in the last 50 years than it did in the 1,000 years prior. I didn’t go to school or get a fancy certificate to do this and I’m not preachy, but I did start a website to show people how easy and really delicious it is to grow some of your own fresh, pesticide free food…even on a fire escape!