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Turning Your Lawn into a Victory Garden Won’t Save You — Fighting the Corporations Will

By Stan Cox
AlterNet June 23, 2008.

I didn’t mean to lead anyone down the garden path. Adding my small voice to those urging Americans to replace their lawns with food plants wasn’t, in itself, a bad idea. But now that food shortages and high costs are in the headlines, too many people are getting the idea that the solution to America’s and the world’s food problems is for all of us in cities and suburbia to grow our own. It’s not.

That’s because the mainstays of home gardening — vegetables and fruits — are not the foundation of the human diet or of world agriculture. Each of those two food types occupies only about 4 percent of global agricultural land (and a smaller percentage in this country), compared with 75 percent of world cropland devoted to grains and oilseeds. Their respective portions of the human diet are similar.

Suppose that half of the land on every one-acre-or-smaller urban/suburban home lot in the entire nation were devoted to food-growing. That would amount to a little over 5 million acres sown to food plants, covering most of the space on each lot that’s not already covered by the house, a deck, a patio, or a driveway. (And in many places it couldn’t be done without cutting down shade trees and planting on unsuitably steep slopes).

That theoretical 5 million acres of potential home cropland compares with about 7 million acres of America’s commercial cropland currently in vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and 350 to 400 million acres of total farmland. The urban and suburban area to be brought into production would not approach the number of healthy acres of native grasses and other plants that are slated to be plowed up to make way for yet more corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains under the newly passed federal Farm Bill.

Read the author’s complete argument here.

1 comment

1 carmeniris { 10.10.08 at 2:40 pm }

At first, I didn’t know what to say because I was taken aback by the author. I guess his point is that why bother pulling the grass and planting vegetables and fruit in our lots because I won’t make a difference in the long run. I guess I could knock down my house and plant wheat. Sorry but fighting Monsanto takes more than the author’s amazing (I suppose) abilities. I have 8 huge oaks that were used to mark the lot lines of my property but I also have more than a dozen fruit trees, bushes and berries that I planted. I grow most of the vegetables I eat in land that used to be lawn here in Minnesota. I still have enough to sell in the Farmer’s Market. I don’t use chemicals (sorry Monsanto) and I save seed (sorry again) because I don’t plant hybrids. I only buy seeds from companies that Monsanto has not yet purchased. Maybe the author is not aware that Monsanto is buying most seed companies in the USA. I am doing my part not just talking about it. Maybe my 1/3 acre is nothing in the author’s scheme of things but every bit helps to save Mother Earth and the creatures that depend on her, bugs included.