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Go for an Edible Estate …the case against lawns

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Why do we dedicate so much property to something that requires precious resources, endless hours and contaminates our air and water?

By Fritz Haeg, Metropolis Books Posted Jan 28, 2009

Our Food

In the process of making the Edible Estate gardens I have encountered some interesting reactions from people on the street. Some actually find it strange and a bit unseemly to ingest something that has grown in your yard. Yet most of us don’t think twice before eating something grown under the most mysterious of circumstances on the other side of the world.

What you don’t know can’t hurt you; out of sight out of mind. The act of eating is the moment in which we are most intimately connected to the world around us. We ingest into our bodies earthly matter that grew out of organic and environmental cycles happening all the time. What happens when the source of our food is far away and hidden from us? In moving food great distances, we pollute and expend precious energy, but perhaps more important, we lose visible evidence of our humble place in the big food chain.

Our Time

It is easy to romanticize gardening and food production when your life does not depend on what you are able to grow. An Edible Estate can be a lot of work! A lower-maintenance garden might be full of fruit trees and perennials well suited to your climate, but a more ambitious front yard might be full of annual vegetables and herbs that are rotated every season. Either way it demands a certain amount of dedication and time.

Do we have enough time to grow our own food? Perhaps a better question is: How do we want to spend the little time that we do have? How about being outside with our family and friends, in touch with our neighbors, while watching with satisfaction as the plants we are tending begin to produce the healthiest local food to be found?

It may be harder to defend the time we spend sitting in our cars or watching television. But for those who just can’t be bothered, what if all the front lawns on an entire street were turned over to urban farming teams? Each street would be lined in a series of diverse crops. The farmers would sell the produce, and give what was left over to the families whose yards they tend. When buying a house, depending on your taste, you could decide if you wanted to live on artichoke avenue or citrus circle or radish road.

Our Modest Monument

Edible Estates has no conventionally monumental intentions; it is a relatively small and modest intervention on our streets. The gardens are just beginning when they are planted and they continue to evolve. With just one season of neglect some gardens may disappear entirely. Politicians, architects, developers, urban citizens, we all crave permanent monuments that will give a sense of place and survive as a lasting testament to ourselves and our time. We were here! These monuments have their place, but their capacity to bring about meaningful change in the way we live is quite limited.A small garden of very modest means, humble materials, and a little effort can have a radical effect on the life of a family, how they spend their time and relate to their environment, whom they see, and how they eat. This singular local response to global issues can become a model. It can be enacted by anyone in the world and can have a monumental impact.

Fritz Haeg is the author of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, from Metropolis Books. This article is excerpted from the book.

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  • Michelle B

    What a brilliant article!

  • Nathan

    Very nice read thank you 🙂
    I miss the lovely smell of a freshly cuz lawn in the summer, and I use to quite like doing our front garden grass when I was at school (not the back though as its big and took a long time out of my playing lol).

    Thanks for the a good read and some nice fresh cuz grass memories 🙂

  • I couldnt agree with you more!

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