In Dali, a few brave rebels, with no land to call their own, buck the backyard gardening trend and sow their veggies on the sandy river banks that snake their way through the city.

Being raised in USA where growing ones own food is oftentimes a practical way to save on grocery bills, I frequently lament that land here is so expensive that growing ones own would cost far more than buying the highest quality, organic produce. Renting an allotment is out of the question as well, since arable land is usually only rented out in commercial sized plots to professional farmers; hobby gardeners need not apply. Turns out, I’m not the only one sneaking off to sub-par land to guerrilla grow some veggies on the sly. There is a substantial garden right here, next to the river. 20161231_154920.jpg

I saw a plethora of seasonable veggies thriving in no-mans land, in soil that I would have believed too sandy to grow anything beyond frequently irrigated root crops. I immediately recognized: sweet potato leaves: cabbages, squash and tomatoes. The cabbages were struggling to outgrow the pest damage but there were enough sweet potato leaves to keep a dozen families adequately supplied with leafy greens.

Towards the far end, there was a separate garden, claimed by a homeless man who presumably hangs his head nearby. He left a sign asking people to leave him and his garden be. Being the inconsiderate bastard that I am… I respected his wishes and performed an about-face. He’d done nothing to deserve the likes of me. After-all, it’s not like he’s a Clinton supporter or anything.

Hello everybody. I am a homeless person. I do not steal, burglarize or commit crime. I rely on myself. My life is hard. Please leave me be. Do not steal from me or you will be held responsible.

On my way back, I ran into the old man who manages everything you see in the picture below. You might expect such a gangsta-ass, brasica-slingin’ mofo not to take kindly to Whitey prancing through his turf, but homeboy was: modest, friendly and helpful. According to him, nobody owns this land and he comes here just to “practice” growing crops before renting some prime land next year. As he picked cabbage moth caterpillars off his crop, he told me that this place is underwater throughout most of the summer and only suitable for growing in the winter (likely why nobody else wants to garden here). I asked if anybody ever comes to steal his veggies and he told me he capped some veggie-thieving suckas just last week “petty thieves steal petty things”, and that veggies are so abundant this time of year that nobody has much motive to steal some bug-ridden cabbages.


On the way out, I passed by two middle-aged ladies trying and failing to coax some greens out of Styrofoam boxes of potting soil. I stopped briefly to ask them (in Chinese) what they were growing this time of year, but they didn’t respond. Instead, they exchanged looks and expressed lamentations that neither of them could speak English. They’re a pair of winners to be sure.

This, to me, is evidence that “where there is a will, there is a way”. Even this man, with no land to call his own, has managed to build a respectably sized garden. i wish this guy luck in his gardening venture and all his own adventures.