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.