The Space In-Between

Earth Lightly

An opportunity for urban food gardening in Cape Town.  A collaboration between the Methodist Church and Touching the Earth Lightly ™

Cities are full. Space is at a premium. A garage space in the city sells for R3million. We cannot build “out”, so we build “up”, creating high-rise buildings, constantly seek more space. Space to live, to work, to consume.

In this “space-seeking” process, we have done two things – created “dead and lost spaces” and severed our umbilical cord with the earth beneath the asphalt and cement, beneath our feet.

We don’t grow our own food. We trust and pay others to that for us. We have even given them the seeds. We go to shops when we are hungry. We exchange the soil under our feet for the money in our wallet. We work, we buy, we eat and we repeat the cycle.

We have forgotten were food comes from. We import it into our city with trucks. We have forgotten were water comes from. We turn on taps, we open bottles, we close taps and we throw the bottles away.

We presume the city is “full” – that roads and buildings have defined the use of all spaces, delineated the areas of natural life and boundaries for creative thought. Like a self-imposed “group areas act” that we must abide by.

We ignore the space in-between fence and wall, between the wall and gutter, between window and window-sill and the spaces on the hundreds of rooftops that lie empty, barren and uninhabited inside our city. The spaces left by traditional architecture and town planning.

We have to challenge this notion. These “spaces in-between” are opportunities for growing food, and they present themselves all around our city, every day, like cracks in the cement pavement, where plants grow anyway.

We can re-discover and define a meaningful purpose for these spaces. By doing this, we can affect change in small and meaningful ways. Empty rooftop spaces represent our cities farmlands.  Rooftop spaces are “vertical area growing spaces” were we can create vertical growing food security systems.

Low-tech vertical gardening methods, combined with the opportunity of high unemployment and homelessness in Cape Town, present meaningful opportunities for creating “green jobs”. Its “talk” that can actually mean something – for a change.

Touching the Earth Lightly Progress

We can also have fun doing this. Change does not have to be a message driven by guilt. Change is driven by people with a message of hope, of creativity and colour. I believe that Cape Town’s city-bowl people are these people…Therefore it should be possible to liberate these “non-spaces” and define their purpose. There is a rebel element here, an element of  the non-conformist and there is an element of righteous undertaking. These are all allies, and speak to the spirit of the free-thinker, the socially minded designer, the urban activist.

We know that water comes from the clouds, not from a tap. We know that food comes from the ground, not from a shop in the city. And we know that nature offers us these gifts free, every day. Yet we deny ourselves the simple opportunities of celebrating this every day.
Why is this so? Are we too busy working? Have we become enslaved to the notion of “buying” goodness? Have we forgotten the difference between the price of something and the value of something?

The collaboration between the Methodist Church and Touching the Earth Lightly seeks to explore the notion of “the in-between spaces” combined with “the free gifts of nature we receive everyday” (think wind, rain and sunlight) by creating a “shop window” of portable, edible fruits and vegetables grown on-site, in milk crates, for local consumption, in the “in-between” space between the Church’s wall and its fence line.

Inside this space, a variety of vegetables and fruits will be grown in milk-crates. Here, they will be stored, displayed and distributed further. Issues of safety will be addressed. The conversation thus becomes a “verb” and the “take-home message” is captured in the simplicity of being able to do just that – taking home a milk-crate filled with soil and healthy vegetables.

In so doing, it hopes to highlight the importance of food security in cities and suggest opportunities for furthering this in simple and meaningful ways.

Written By Stephen Lamb, Founder, Touching the Earth Lightly ™