A Visit to San Francisco’s Victory Garden

Img_3139Planted in the middle of San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza (right in front of the City Hall building), Slow Food Nation’s Victory Garden is quite an impressive site. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect to be underwhelmed. I had been following the progress of this project on Slow Food Nation’s blog and Bon Appetit has been a great supporter of the organization. In fact, the team at University of San Francisco prepared a local, delicious (memorable) lunch for the volunteers and attendees at the Victory Garden "launch" day on July 14th. What do you serve a group of Bay Area foodies, you may ask? Well, the USF team’s delectable menu items not only satiated the guests but also impressed them: California Cubano Sandwich, Grilled Fitz Fresh Portobello Mushroom Sandwich, Three Bean Salad, Three Green Salad, Fresh Mini Blueberry and Peach Pies, just to name a few. Executive Chef Jon Hall’s California Cubano Sandwich was so popular that Aaron French included the recipe in his article about SFN’s Victory Garden. But I digress (that always seems to happen when I think/talk about food!)

Back to the impressive-ness of the garden. Not only was the entire grounds beautifully designed, you could tell right away that numerous people have invested incredible amounts of TLC to make this garden what it is today. Also, with the grand City Hall building in the background (see my photo album), I really felt like I was standing at the juncture of food and politics.

Yes, I was beyond inspired to grow my own food and to work toward ensuring food security and access to fresh produce for everybody in the area. But what struck me most last Saturday was the amazing sense of community evoked by this garden. People of all ages (0-80, I’d say) and ethnicities came together to appreciate and learn about how food is grown. Even the plant signs were multi-lingual! Everybody leisurely strolled through the grounds, savoring the garden leaf by leaf and engaging in discussions with other visitors. IAmidst the fast pace and bustle of the city’s downtown, this garden felt like a calm and serene haven, if you will.

As I sat on one of the provided bales of hay and watched tourists and locals peruse the garden, I realized that the Victory Garden is a perfect portrayal of what we at Bon Appetit call Circle of Responsibility. Educating people about how food affects the environment, community, and personal well being. No doubt the act of gardening is therapeutic and beneficial for your overall well being. And food grown in your own backyard is probably more nutritious (and more environmentally friendly) than industrially-grown produce.

I also couldn’t help but wonder: is this project replicable elsewhere (not just in the Bay Area where "local" was originated)? Have any visitors been inspired to start edible gardens in their own homes or neighborhoods? Even after it’s taken down (in about a month), how can we keep the essence of the garden and the message about sustainability alive? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

-Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager