Farm to Plate? My Produce is Traced Fire Escape to Bowl

Posted on Jun 19 2009 - 3:10am by Mike Lieberman

Last month, I read the book Plenty. There was a passage in it about “food traceability” and how our food travels on the average 1,500 to 2,000 miles from farm to plate. That has stuck with me, well because that number is insane.

Besides the distance that it traveled, what about what else went into getting that food to me. How was it treated? Who are the people that worked to get it to me? How were they treated?

Even though I didn’t start from seed, I can tell you that I got the planter from Trina at Silver Heights Farm, which is a few miles outside of NYC. Then I planted it on my fire escape, harvested it and put it in my belly, which is part of me.

I also didn’t harm myself in the growing of my veggies. Though I did nearly bust my ass climbing out to and in from the fire escape. The risks I take for my food.

When I first started this gardening project, with my ingenious window garden idea, my goal was to get one salad out of this. Well, I stand (or type) before you now with that goal accomplished.

I harvested my first round of lettuces from my fire escape garden and made me a salad. Yes, I GOT MY FIRST SALAD.


The feeling is difficult for me to put into words, but I’ll do my best to. It FEELS AMAZING.

You see, I’m a city boy. My gardening experience is non-existent. My gardening skills were picking produce from the grocery stores because that’s where produce is grown in the back of the grocery store, right?

This experience so far has made me realize and appreciate food that much more. Entire societies and civilizations have been built around areas where food can be grown.

Now here I am in my Manhattan apartment growing on my freaking fire escape. It’s crazy. Maybe I’ll start a civilization in my apartment. It should help with the expenses around here.

More importantly, what I hope this does is inspire at least one of you out there to take on something like this.

Go ahead you know you wanna. I’m here for you if you need any help.

Before and after picks of the self-watering containers:
June 16, 2009. Bucket of lettuces with tomato plant in the middle before (L) and after (R) I harvested them.June 16, 2009. Bucket of lettuces before (L) and after (R) I harvested them.June 16, 2009. Me with my first lettuce harvest.

  • Mrs green

    Oh I hear you; it is utterly amazing isn't it? My daughter sat down to her first meal of new potatoes for lunch – she planted them and dug them up today – the look on her face was pure joy.

    Enjoy the salad :) and well done for such an inspiring blog. I love all your photos

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. It's pretty crazy. That's awesome about your daughter. I'm really liking the fact that more and more kids are getting involved in the process of growing their own food.

    Also glad that you are enjoying the blog. Feedback like that makes it that much more rewarding to me.

  • Making Love In The Kitchen

    Awesome! That is so super cool.

  • madpanic

    Feels good and you totally enjoy it more when you grow your own

    ☼ PROPS ☼

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for all your support and advice bro. Glad we've connected.

  • Mike Lieberman

    It's great. What's up with your herb garden?

  • Elisabeth

    I'm completely with you on this. Unlike you, I grew up in the country, and we always had a garden. I was immersed into the city 10 years ago, and have missed my garden immensely. Since I have no outdoor space whatsoever, I started a kitchen table spice garden 2 weeks ago. It's filling the void for now. At least until I can find some land to sow. =)

  • Mike Lieberman

    Something is better than nothing. You should check out the book “Fresh Food from Small Places.” I thumbed through it and it seemed to have some creative ways to garden and grow foods.

    What spices are you growing?

  • WendiDee

    That's so fantastic, Mike! Congrats on growing your own foods and showing others they can do it, too!

    Lots of love to you,


  • Diana Christine

    Yeah! Congratulations on the new garden salad! I love your amazement in the video…I have the same amazing feeling with every new crop of sprouts from my sprouting jar. Today is my day 1 of 30 days of all raw foods. I'll stay posted with your site for good ideas.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks as always for the kind words and encouragement. It's been a great and fun experience so far and I'm only a few weeks deep. Can't wait to see where it's gonna take me. So when are you and Jim starting your garden?

  • WendiDee

    We've always grown veggies and herbs until last year when we decided to sell our home. Now we are here, without a garden, waiting for the house to sell and wishing we had planted one!

    When we settle, after our tour, we'll be having massive community gardens! :-)

    *blows kisses*

  • Mike Lieberman

    cool. cool. should add some gardening to your tour. now that'd be something interesting.

  • Pingback: Urban Kinder-Garden Workshop Day 1 | Urban Organic Gardener()

  • TheAL

    Yes! That's fabulous. There's nothing like growing your own food!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Most definitely. Can't wait to start again for the coming season.

  • nomnomnom

    congratulations on getting in touch with food! i was lucky enough to grow up on an organic farm in the midwest… there is nothing to compare to the feeling of picking your food and eating it right there. happy gardening!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the comment. Couldn't agree with you more.

  • E.S. Wynn

    This is awesome. I stumbled into here and I have to say that reading your post (especially since you are a “city boy”) gave me new hope for humanity. I moved out to the country to work and live on a farm where we grow a good deal of our own food, (especially our meats) and it has improved my health immensely! Keep being awesome!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Wow. Thanks for the compliment. Really means a lot. I've been thinking of doing the same as you. How did you find your opportunity?

  • E.S. Wynn

    I got lucky– my family and I agreed it was a good idea, so we put it together over the space of a few years. My mother grew up on a farm, so she's taught the rest of us everything we need to know.

  • Mike Lieberman

    That sounds awesome. I'll have to find and create my own space as well.

  • Mike Lieberman

    That sounds awesome. I'll have to find and create my own space as well.

  • Alok Kumar

    congratulations on getting in touch with food! i was lucky enough to grow up on an organic farm in the midwest… there is nothing to compare to the feeling of picking your food and eating it right there. happy gardening!

  • Anonymous

    i read this book its reaal good and worth reading
    Electronic Cigarettes

  • Sopoline

    This is a great way to prevent the world from pollution. lol!!!

    blu electronic cigarettes

  • Eco Bris

    That’s awesome! I am doing a balcony garden in tubs, and getting the first bunch of basil and eating the first few lettuce leaves was amazing!

  • Mike Lieberman

    nice! good stuff bro.

  • Ruperto Ruiz

    This is cool! I’m a college student living in the Bronx and you’re inspiring to begin my own little project in my fire escape. You rock Mike! NYC would become a better place if everyone were willing to grow their own food.