Friday, March 27, 2009

Planting the seeds of a revolution

The title of this post is also the title of this op ed by Pulitzer Prize Winner Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, which begins

YOU HAVE to admit that this gives new meaning to the idea of a "shovel-ready project." There are now 1,100 square feet on the South Lawn of the White House being transformed into a kitchen garden. If Americans follow the first family's lead, the seed pack will become the new stimulus package. At least we'll have something to do with those pitchforks after the AIG bonus babies surrender their money.

As you would expect from someone like Ellen Goodman it is very much worth the few minutes it will take to go over an read. I did a quick post on the new White House garden but Ellen's piece very much puts a different perspective on what this may mean for all of us. As an organic gardener for more than 30 years and a gardener of one sort or another for all of my nearly 60 years...mind you, some of it seen as terrible punishment when I was a wee lad, it really excites me to see home gardening rise into the mainstream as something that is good to do.

The whole article needs reading but I want to share just a few more bits and some of the facts because this is about more than food and gardening. It is about a revolution in the way Americans think about what they put on the table or in 'Shrub speak' what they "put on their family".

But there is something else about the incredible edible project that also makes me do a fist bump. The Obamas aren't just eating the view, they are eating the lawn.

What Michelle and the kids and the crew did the other day was to drive a shovel right into the heart of that American icon: the lawn. They literally took the most pampered lawn in America, dumped it in the wheel barrel, and carted it away. All that was missing was a chorus of "This lawn is your lawn."

Is it possible that along with local, organic food, the First Garden can promote the thoroughly subversive idea that this symbol has seen its day?

This is the sea change. This is a revolutionary idea...what if we abandoned our obsession with our lawns?

Here are some of the facts and figures from the article:

  • 40 million acres of lawn, more than for any other agriculture product
  • 270 billion gallons of water weekly - enough to irrigate twice as many acres of organic vegetables
  • $40 billion per year on seed, sod and chemicals. What a waste!

As Goodman notes,

We mow the lawn, we fertilize it, we pesticize it, we water it, for the absurd purpose of keeping this useless patch in a deliberate state of arrested development.
Environmentally, sensibly, she is correct. The chemicals that we dose our lawns with cause massive environmental degradation. Most of it winds up running off into our water supplies where it causes untold harm. The herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers poison our children, pets, and wildlife.

I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have the space to grow a vegetable garden or even a few square feet of bare earth or even a porch to grow a tomato in a pot. You can still participate in the revolution however. Look around and you may find a CSA or a community garden where you can lease a space or you can patronize a local farmer's market where local farmers and gardeners sell their locally grown produce. There are ways.

Besides reading the article and starting your own vegetable garden or patronizing your local growers...if you have a lawn, reconsider it, especially if you are paying someone like ChemLawn to poison you and your environment.

h/t to teacherken at La Vida Locavore for alerting me to the article.

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