Growing Cities Blog

Treehugger Film Review: “Grow Some Food. Wherever you Are.”

February 14th, 2014

A great review from … “Inspiring, educational … and definitely worth watching!”

Growing Cities doc film

© Growing Cities

“Growing Cities” is a new documentary film about the rise of urban farming in the United States. When Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette, two young men from Omaha, Nebraska, become disillusioned with the lack of urban farming projects in their hometown, they strike out on a road trip. They are searching for people who grow their own food, who believe in the tremendous potential of urban farming, and who are changing their communities through growing food.

The filmmakers certainly find what they’re looking for. It’s not surprising that the West coast has many well-established urban farms. In San Francisco, municipal laws are lenient toward urban farmers, even inner-city livestock; and Seattle provides land to anyone willing to farm. Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit boast incredible operations that feed thousands, build community, and offer employment opportunities. New York City boasts impressive rooftop gardens; Boston continues to maintain an original, World War II-era Victory Garden; and farmers in Atlanta and New Orleans are working to make urban spaces green and productive, while training underprivileged youth.

Urban farming is beneficial for many reasons. It can offer much-needed nutritious food to urban dwellers. Many Americans nowadays live in what’s called a “food desert,” where local stores don’t stock fresh produce regularly. In Detroit, for example, 550 000 residents (over half the city’s population) don’t have close, reliable access to vegetables and fruit.

Urban farming teaches Americans how to view vacant land in a new light. Wherever there’s space, there’s an opportunity to grow something. Even if you don’t own the land, many landowners are happy to have someone actively improve and beautify their empty lot for free, while benefitting the community. As one Atlanta farmer explains:

“The hugest part of sustainability is having people understand the importance of caring for land, regardless of whether you think you own it or not.”

Urban farming helps secure the national food supply. Americans have done it before, thanks to the tremendous growth of Victory Gardens during the two World Wars. Just a few years after being established, these homegrown gardens provided 40 percent of all produce consumed in the United States. There’s no reason that can’t happen again. Americans possess 35 million acres of lawns that could be productive.

What’s needed is a cultural shift in the perception of agriculture. Farmers need to be raised up in our society, and regarded in a similar way to doctors and engineers. After all, farmers are the most important people in our lives because they are the ones who feed us. And people need to get their hands dirty, to learn about growing food in limited, compromised spaces. You’d be amazed at what’s possible.

Growing Cities Trailer from Growing Cities Movie on Vimeo.

“Growing Cities” is definitely worth watching. It’s inspiring, lighthearted, and educational, and has been very well received at film festivals. You can find a list of screenings here, or learn how to host your own. The film’s website also has lots of helpful information for starting your own urban farming projects.

Advance Film Screening: Growing Cities

September 11th, 2013


                                                                        Thursday, September 19

Good Morning Everyone,

Get ready for a special, advance film screening of Growing Cities, next week from 7:30-10pm on Thursday, September 19th at Skidmore College in New York!

Some facts about the evening:

  • Filene Hall at Skidmore College  815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY (This is Skidmore College’s official address. Filene Hall is pinpointed in the Google Map link.)
  • Presented by Farm Aid and Skidmore College.  Join us for an advanced screening (doors at 7:30pm, film at 8pm), followed by a panel discussion featuring the filmmaker. Popcorn will be provided by Yolo! Snacks.
  • Free parking is available in Skidmore’s Arts Quad Lots A and B. Lot A directions: From Skidmore’s main entrance, take a left onto Perimeter Road, then a right into lot A, near the Arthur Zankel Music Center. Lot B directions: From the main entrance, continue straight across the intersection. Lot B will be on your right.
  • Free, but please register here –> (Once on this page, register at the bottom.)

Thanks to Skidmore College and Farm Aid for sponsoring the event and thanks to all of you for supporting Growing Cities and your local urban farmers!


September 7th, 2013

Hi Everyone, Check out some images from the film festival!

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The premiere was a beautiful night with over 500 people in attendance, including the filmmakers.



2013-09-01 17.50.02Before the screening the audience was able to meet urban farmers and taste some delicious local food as well as talk to us. We met a ton of folks who were really excited about urban agriculture and the potential it has to revitalize cities.

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After the screening we got a ton of great feedback, including a lot of “I’m so inspired!” so that felt really great. We’re excited to roll it out in more cities this Fall!

New York Green Summit, Royal gala, & more!

October 7th, 2012

If you would have told me when we started Growing Cities close to two years ago that it would lead us to meet the King and Queen of Sweden, I would have said you must be smoking something.  Something strong.  After the last few days though nearly everyone I’ve told about the event thinks I’m the one who’s on drugs.  But, when I say I talked to the Swedish princess (and maybe even hit on her a bit) it’s not a lie…unfortunately, she already has an American boyfriend.

Dan Andrew on Stage

Dan and Andrew on stage for Q&A

The reason we came to New York City was for the Farm to Fork Conference, put on by the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of New York (SACCNY).  We were delighted to be invited to speak at the event and share our stories about urban farmers across the country.  We were interviewed on stage for about a half hour and showed our trailer to the group, with their majesties in the front row.

We also were able to meet with some really fabulous chefs, food thinkers, and business people from across the world.  To give you an idea of the variety, at lunch I had the CEO of Unilever (yes, the one that has two billion customers) on one side and a famous Swedish chef from Stockholm on the other…with the princess across from me!  Andrew, meanwhile was eating with the Volvo’s CEO and Swedish ambassador.

Other highlights included an impassioned presentation by Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City, a book we’re very excited to check out.

She gave us a greater appreciation of the history of agriculture in cities and a deeper understanding of the relationship between food and geography, especially in an urban context.  Sorry, I just geeked out – we had tea with her yesterday so you might hear more soon after we read her book!

Showing the trailer to the crowd

We also heard from Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of the Stonyfield yogurt and leader in the organic foods movement.  He talked about the fight to label Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) in California (learn more here) and the importance of seeing beyond vitamins when you think about the health benefits of organic foods (e.g. in response to the now infamous Stanford study)

Other speakers were amazing as well, from world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs to filmmaker and ocean activist Fabien Cousteau (yes, grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau).  It seems so improbable as I write it that I can’t really believe we really met all of these people myself!

To top it off, later in the evening we attended the Royal Gala Dinner at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park.  As we were arriving I couldn’t believe that at this time last year we were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the back of Andy’s mom’s minivan worrying about how we could possibly go on making this movie on such a tight budget.

Of course, a lot has happened since then—transcription, Kickstarter, editing, music, interns, sundance.  Wow!  It makes me realize how far we’ve come—that what we’ve created is alive and well, even if it’s not completely finished.  I’m really proud of us.  Of Andy for sticking by me no matter what I asked…waking up at 5am to film, moving into a lackluster studio, transcribing hundreds of hours of interviews…the list goes on.

Getting fancy at the Royal Gala

Of course, the work is by no means over and we have a long road ahead—from finishing the film, submitting to festivals, and promoting once its released.  Nevertheless, I can’t help but walk around with a smile on my face today thinking, ‘Wow, we’ve created something.’

Thanks to everyone for your kind and generous support along the way – none of this would be possible without you all.  And we’ll hope this isn’t our last audience with the King and Queen!  And the princess of course ;)

Young Food Activists Capture the Growth and Energy of Urban Farming on Film

April 17th, 2012

***For Immediate Release***

 Filmmakers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette traveled 12,000 miles to meet the leaders of the urban farming movement. With over 140 hours of footage to show for it, they are now launching a Kickstarter campaign  to help finish the film.

Omaha, NE (WEB) April 12, 2012 – Independent filmmakers and food activists Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette have thirty days to raise $35,000 for their feature film, Growing Cities, a documentary about urban agriculture in America.

After growing up in Omaha, Nebraska near factory farms and fast food outlets, they resolved to seek out the people who were growing food in a healthier, more sustainable way. “Everyone is really tired of hearing about all the problems with our food system,” says Susman, age 24.  “So we figured it was time to show off the people who were doing something positive, right in their own backyards.”

He and his childhood friend, Monbouquette, also 24, visited more than eighty urban farmers—from rooftop gardeners to backyard chicken keepers to vegetable farmers – who are working to transform the way this country grows and distributes its food one vacant city lot at a time.

Growing Cities Kickstarter

“Urban farming has remarkable power on so many levels,” says Monbouquette, “it connects people to healthy foods, strengthens communities, creates jobs, revitalizes blighted areas; and much more. That’s why this story is so compelling.”

Growing Cities is the first film to focus specifically on urban agriculture across the country. The film shows viewers the vast potential to transform our food system in the unlikeliest of places.

They also learned there’s no such thing as a typical urban farmer. “There is no single face of the urban farming movement,” says Susman, “and no way to sum up in a sentence or a headline. That’s part of the magic and why it will be so powerful to put their stories into a film.”

The filmmakers are beginning to raise money for the film’s post-production using Kickstarter, the increasingly popular online fundraising platform.  They must raise $35,000 by May 15th in order to complete the film by early 2013.  To learn more about the film, readers can visit the project’s pitch page here.

For questions, press inquiries, or other comments please contact:

Dan Susman

Time Out with Urban Farm Magazine

October 4th, 2011

Andrew and Dan got a chance recently to step back from the daily demands of producing a film – at the moment they’re deep into transcribing as they transfer 108 hours worth of film into text – and talk with Urban Farm Magazine about their trip. It helped put the focus back on why they’re doing all this (that’s right, I said 108 hours of film…so far) and why it continues to be a labor of love (most of the time).

In a trip that spans 20 cities they’ve had a chance to catch bees at Backward Beekeepers and milk goats at the Goat Justice League. They’ve met farmers growing food out of milk jugs and from the back of a pick up truck. They’ve met folks, like the ones at the Free Farm Stand, who would rather give away their food than sell it. They’ve also come to realize there is no poster child for this movement – no Farmer Joe.

“One of the most important things we’ve learned is how remarkably diverse the urban-agriculture movement is,” Dan says. “People from all over the country with myriad backgrounds are all growing food for a lot of different reasons. There is not one face of the urban farming movement, and what it is can’t be summed up in one sentence. That’s part of the magic; that’s why it will be so powerful to put all these faces and stories into one film.”

Here’s the rest of story.

To catch more of Andrew and Dan’s latest adventures tune into this Saturday morning at 9am PST.