Steve Mann is known as "the squash father." Part of that has to do with Mann's cultivation of the delectable yellow fruit at his Platte Prairie Farm in the Northland and his annual Squash Blossom Festival, a gathering of environmentalists and foodies. He's also building a political machine, a network of metro residents operating under the radar to overthrow the prevailing agricultural paradigm. Mann is the local face of the Food Not Lawns movement, which aims to reclaim urban space for agrarian purposes such as, well, squash production. To Mann, it makes no sense to pollute the environment by transporting foods from distant regions when a midtown backyard will produce more than the typical household can consume. So this farmer doesn't just tend his own crops north of the river; he makes house calls. He puts the trowel in homeowners' hands, helping them plant vegetable gardens in their own yards. Driven by the promise of self-sufficiency or sustainability, Mann's ranks are growing.
(Photo by Emily Henson)