Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Mike Lieberman: The mad urban organic gardener of Mar Vista

“Being originally a New Yorker and having a brother who is nine-years older than me, I was fortunate enough to be raised on The Howard Stern Show,” Mike Lieberman writes on his site, UrbanOrganicGardener.com. But how did Lieberman, eminent Southland urban organic gardener, get from Stern to green food guru?

Lieberman started his first fire escape garden in NYC during the spring of 2009. Finding most gardening books “mad boring,” he decided to just dive in and blog about the experience. UrbanOrganicGardener.com was born. In April of 2010, he moved to southern California. Now, he aims to inspire and empower people to start growing some of their own food and reconnect with their food source.

We recently spoke with Lieberman, who cultivates both a balcony garden and a gardening movement in Mar Vista, California.

When did you first know you were an environmentalist? I can remember back to when I was three years old. Okay, I’m totally kidding. I was definitely always into nature and the outdoors. It wasn’t until about three or four years ago that it all started to come together for me. I started thinking about what we do to influence nature and how we can control that.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your field? Definitely combating the convenience factor. It’s too easy for people to get food, so I have show and tell them why it’s so important to grow their own. The challenge is to do it in a way that isn’t so in their face that they get defensive and dismiss me as some kook.

What’s the biggest challenge you think the environmental movement faces? People who are absolutists, as in the ones that preach and expect everyone to be 100% about it. That type of thinking and mentality is going to make it seem unattainable and a complete turn off to most people. We have to realize that any subtle changes people make are good ones.

What positive eco-strides are being made right now? I love seeing all of the urban gardening and farming projects that are spawning all over the country.

What’s the first site you read each day? I don’t have a first online site, but I have a few that I check out on a near daily basis including Rodale.com and Fooducate.

Who do you admire most in the green movement? It’s the individuals who have done something to change their lives to better the environment. One person isn’t going to make a difference. It’s going to take a group effort for real change to come about.

If you could ask a presidential candidate one question about the environment, what would it be? Why do you accept money from large corporations to destroy the environment that will one day be home to your grand kids and great-grand kids? Are you going to be able to tell them that you were responsible for it?

Who do you think would win in a cage match – you or Al Gore? I think I’d have the slight advantage. It’s been nearly 3.5 years, but I used to train in kickboxing. I actually have an amateur fight under my belt. I lost, but I still have one.

Want to learn more about urban gardening? You can connect with Lieberman at UrbanOrganicGardener.com.  

Photo courtesy of Mike Lieberman.

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