Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's socialist cauliflower for brains

Is socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez getting really out there?

She's out promoting urban farming by selecting the kinds of crops she thinks her constituents should be growing.  And naturally, those crops to be grown are viewed through the prism of "colonialism," not the actual growing climate, which ironically, she claims to be an expert on.

According to Fox News:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday that growing cauliflower in community gardens is part of the "colonial" attitudes that her Green New Deal will stamp out.

The New York Democrat, who introduced the proposal to tackle climate change by radically transforming the economy, posted a series of Instagram videos filmed in her home state talking about community gardens as a "core component" of her proposal.

"What I love too is growing plants that are culturally familiar to the community. It's so important," she said as she filmed a community garden in the Bronx.

"So that's really how you do it right. That is such a core component of the Green New Deal is having all of these projects make sense in a cultural context, and it's an area that we get the most pushback on because people say, 'Why do you need to do that? That's too hard.'"

She went on to add that growing cauliflower in such gardens is a "colonial approach" and the reason communities of color oppose environmentalist movements.

"But when you really think about it — when someone says that it's 'too hard' to do a green space that grows [yuca] instead of, I don't know, cauliflower or something — what you're doing is you're taking a colonial approach to environmentalism," Ocasio-Cortez said.

"That is why a lot of communities of color get resistant to certain environmentalist movements because they come with the colonial lens on them."

There are so many things wrong with this I almost don't know where to begin.

For starters, like yuca, cauliflower most certainly is a staple of Caribbean cuisines common to the Bronx and Queens, starting with Jamaican, which has lots of cauliflower recipes if you look.  Cauliflower is most frequently found in cuisines influenced by India, and guess what: the Caribbean is loaded with such influences, from Jamaica to Trinidad to Guyana, or most any place the colonial Brits cast anchor.  The Brits, however, didn't introduce the cauliflower; the colonized Indians with them were the ones who did, and the Caribbean islands made the cuisine their very own.  Jerk cauliflower?  Not a British invention.  V.S. Naipaul (notice the name), from Trinidad and Tobago, certainly would have understood this.  Since I have lived in Ocasio-Cortez's represented Bronx, near the Elder Avenue subway stop, I can tell you Guyanese and Jamaican immigrants are well represented in the area.

That's just one thing problematic in Ocasio-Cortez's argument.  It actually gets way worse afterward.

So Ocasio-Cortez's Bronx and Queens constituents should be growing yuca (Fox screwed up on spelling the word "yucca"; it's definitely spelled "yuca"), not cauliflower?  Sure, the locals like to eat it.  It goes by more than one name: manioc, cassava, etc. — and you can buy the carby-rich root imported, in the Bronx bodegas, but there's a reason why it's imported.

Here's what a yuca plant looks like: 

Yuca plant.

Look like a natural for the Bronx skyline?

Trying to grow that in New York is a recipe for disaster.  The plant has an 18-month growing cycle and can't handle frost, so unless New York gets some of that global warming climate change Ocasio-Cortez is big on condemning, those plants are going to die when the cold snap hits.  Here's the take of one knowledgeable urban gardener:

Whatever you call it, it's a serious staple crop. Virtually pest-free, drought tolerant, loaded with calories, capable of good growth in poor soil – cassava is a must-have anyplace it can grow. ...

But there is a caveat on cultivation: cassava doesn't like cold. If temperatures drop to freezing, your cassava will freeze to the ground. This won't usually kill the plant, but it does mean you need to plan your growing accordingly. It happens to me every year here in North Florida … but the plants come back up again in spring without fail.

In the tropics, cassava is a perennial, capable of growing huge roots and living for years. Growing it at any USDA Zone beyond 8 is likely an exercise in futility. Cassava needs warmth and time to grow its massive roots.

Meanwhile, Cornell University's urban gardening experts, who have actually tried to grow tropical crops in New York, note that plants such as yuca have a tough time growing there not just because it gets cold, but because the daylight hours are insufficient for the plants' needs:

I assumed that the biggest difficulty with growing these subtropical crops would be the cold New York weather, but Deborah tells me that daylight hours actually pose the bigger problem. Day length close to the equator tends to be pretty even throughout the year, varying by an hour at most, while New York sunsets happen at 4:30pm in December and 8:30pm in June. So if a plant from Jamaica moves to the City that Never Sleeps, it's almost always going to be getting either too much light or not enough.

So imagine the disaster if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had her way and all of her constituents were attempting to grow yuca in New York's hostile climate. The word 'food desert' spring to mind and not because of the insufficient numbers of bodegas. There wouldn't be any crops at all.

There is a precise parallel between Ocasio-Cortez's argument with the climate in New York, and her commands to grow yuca instead, and another instance where the state really did manage to get the kind of central planning Ocasio-Cortes seeks - and it happened in real life in ... Caribbean Venezuela. I visited the place in 2005 and the farmers there in Yaracuy and Cojedes states explained to me that the land was failing because Cuban advisors inside the Venezuelan department of agriculture had mandated Holstein cows there instead of tropical Brahmin cows for Venezuela's newly established collective farms. Holsteins deliver more milk, see, and are raised very successfully in Argentina where the climate is similar to Europe's. The Cubans had connections to Argentina at the time as well as the power to make the order in the name of feeding the children and looking great in the statistics books, but Venezuela's tropical climate was no place for these cows. The thinner, bonier (but just as tasty) white Brahmin cows, such as the ones the nearby Colombians raised so well, were the most appropriate cows for the Venezuelan climate. Suffice to say, that central planning from the Cubans in Venezuela was a disaster and looking on now, you can see how it has contributed to Venezuela's now-disastrous food shortages.

Does it get worse? Yes, Ocasio-Cortez's boosterism for yuca over cauliflower gets even worse.

Guess who else was big on promoting yuca for the inner city locals in self-sufficient urban farms? You got it, socialist cult leader Jim Jones of the 1970s Jonestown Guyana fame. Jones promoted yuca as a panacea through his central directive, citing the same colonialism Ocasio-Cortez did. He ordered the cult's people to grow it and eat it — and they pretty well starved, not knowing how to farm it and not having anything but that to eat. The urban farming disaster around yuca in the name of socialist self-sufficiency and going local can be read about here.  

What we are seeing here is a wannabe socialist dictator skirting perilously close to the worst failures of socialism  — from Jonestown to Venezuela — as she promotes yuca cultivation for the Bronx. Sound like someone you'd like to have running things? Sound like someone who knows what she's talking about around socialism, self sufficiency, colonial sensitivity and a green new deal? Not on your life.

Image credit: The Slammer, original cartoon, attribution via American Thinker.

Image credit: Jonestown Institute, via Wikimedia Commons, attribution with unspecified license.

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