Reading through the Utopian dreams and failed society reboots of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and industrialist Henry Ford, I can’t help but notice their different relationships to food and its production whether in gardens or pastures. They definitely focus on the planned and built environment as the cure to the diseases of human settlements. I guess when all you have is a city planning hammer, everything looks like a nail.
But let’s get back to the issue of agriculture and the placement or absence of gardens and farms in these failed bright futures of the past. Henry Ford’s Fordlandia actually built a city in a cleared part of the Brasilian rainforest to harvest rubber for the new Ford automobiles rolling off of the assembly lines in the U.S. Based on Ford’s idea of industrial perfection, they promoted “healthy” industrial food like burgers and fries, a lot like cigarette commercials in the 60’s promoted that clean fresh feeling of menthol. The years since told us a different tale.
Using only beams and bricks to shape hearts and minds, these social architects all seem to have overlooked the culture in agriculture. Some utopias were conceived as homages to the potency of industry as it blossomed at the time. Others recognized the need for green space in a healthy lifestyle but, through forced symmetries and achingly clean straight lines, they neglected to allow that same green space space to swirl, undulate and be chaotic in the ways that keep it healthy and nurture souls.
Are human beings inherently fractal and curvy like leaf tips and whirlwinds or are we only at our productive best when popped into crisp chalk lines and optimized sharp-cornered steel glass skyscrapers with a deadline?
Maybe our beauty and truth is in our ability to embrace both.
Overall, these great big plans for reshaping civilization left me searching for a truly huge, revolutionary, foundation-of-human-life-shaking idea that was small enough for me to try today. An absence that, like always, brings me back to this:
When you work in the garden, the garden works in you.
“All of the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.” -Geoff Lawton