Amy Franceschini, assistant professor of visual arts, is the creative mind behind the San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden. - Photo courtesy of Slow Food Nation.
“V” is for independence from the industrial food system. “V” is for
reducing the number of gas-guzzling miles needed to grow and deliver
food to America’s dinner tables. “V” is for spreading urban
sustainability. “V” is for the revival of victory gardens that has
taken root in San Francisco, thanks in no small part to the work of Amy
Franceschini, assistant professor of visual arts at the University of
Franceschini, an artist and graphic designer who
founded the artist/activist/gardener collaboratives Futurefarmers in
1995 and Free-Soil in 2002, is the creative mind behind the first
edible Victory Garden at San Francisco Civic Center Plaza since World
“My intentions were to revive not only a city-supported
gardening program, but a personal revival to get politicized and
radicalized about the current food crisis,” Franceschini said.
garden was planted in July with the help of dozens of volunteers and
funding support from nonprofits Slow Food Nation and Southern Exposure.
At first, Franceschini wavered about whether to keep the Victory
Gardens 2008+ name for the 10,000-square-foot Civic Center project, but
decided that the historic connotations helped draw attention and,
perhaps, more importantly, open a dialogue.
“The name gives us
a chance to talk about gardening in a time of war,” Franceschini said.
Only, in this case, “victory,” depends on weaning control of America’s
food supply from agriculture giants like Monsanto, reducing the use of
fertilizers and pesticides in the food supply, and cutting corporate
welfare subsidies that go to the top 10 percent of the country’s
growers, she said.
Growing up in a farming family, Franceschini
was no stranger to food politics. Her father was a large-scale farmer
and pesticide company owner in San Joaquin Valley and her mother, who
separated from her father, became an organic farmer and activist in San
Luis Obispo County. But, it wasn’t until she began to research World
War II victory gardens, learning in the process that San Francisco was
a center of the movement, that she began to think about a revival.
their heyday, from 1941 to 1943, Americans tended to 20 million victory
gardens and contributed 41 percent of the nation’s total food
production. San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza not only sprouted a
whole farmers market of vegetables, as it’s doing again today, but also
helped spawn 250 family garden plots in Golden Gate Park.
helped me to think of the city as a place where progressive ideas can
take root,” Franceschini said. “San Francisco is ready for a
decentralized and systemic approach to urban agriculture.”
success of the Civic Center garden is already helping to spread the
idea of victory gardens among city residents, with hundreds applying to
have their own smaller versions planted in their backyards, on
rooftops, or in window boxes as part of a pilot project. Franceschini,
who received $60,000 from the city of San Francisco for a 15-garden
pilot, and a cohort of volunteers are rushing to get the gardens in the
ground by winter.
For graphic design major Lindsey Boyer ’08,
who interned with Franceschini during her senior year, working on the
Victory Gardens 2008+ Web site was more than a way to gain graphic
design experience, it ended up sparking an interest in gardening and
awareness of food production she didn’t expect.
people want to do things like this, but they either don't know how or
don't have the means and that is what Victory Gardens 2008+ does,”
Boyer said. “It helps people start and learn how to make their own
Working on the Web site and other projects for
Franceschini connected her work as a graphic designer to bigger social
issues for the first time, Boyer said. “To me, that is really important
because she is using her skills to help the greater good, and I can
only hope to do something like that in the future.”