Lawn or Food?

>> Monday, June 9, 2008

Lawn grass is the largest irrigated U.S. crop. "Even conservatively," notes NASA researcher Cristina Milesi, "I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn."

That equals approximately 128,000 kilometers. Keeping all of that grass green requires about 200 gallons of fresh, typically drinking-quality water per person per day.
With the rising costs of groceries, homeowners are turning more and more of their lawn into vegetable gardens. From around the country garden centers have reported increased sales in vegetable plants and seeds. Red Barn Garden Center in Dellwood North Carolina has been part of the gardening scene for 35 years, and owner/manager Karen Collins says there are at least 15-20% more people raising vegetable gardens this year. This harkens back to 20 years ago, during another fuel price increase.
First-time gardeners are citing several reasons for getting started, and experienced gardeners are using some of the same reasons for expanding their backyard plots. Some reasons given are:
To reduce food costs
To grow food they know is safe, as long as you choose organic fertilizers over chemicals
To get exercise and have a hobby, especially baby boomers who are retiring
To get a wider variety of food than available in stores, more flavorful than industrially raised food
Burpee seed sales have increased greatly in the past three years says George Ball Jr., president of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., a leading national provider of seeds based in Warminster, Bucks County.
In the United Kingdom, vegetable gardening is on the rise, thanks to an increasing distaste for factory foods and a desire to limit “food miles.” Citizens are becoming more concerned about the distance food has to travel and the carbon emissions that result from a lengthy shipping process. Fresh vegetables grown in backyards or small parcels of leased land, called allotments, are considered more environmentally friendly.
This spring, The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported a substantial increase in vegetable seed sales. The country’s Horticultural Trades Association showed a 31% increase in sales of vegetable seeds and a corresponding 32% decrease in sales of flower seeds.
The book “Food Not Lawns,” by Heather C. Flores is helping to support a movement for homeowners to replace parts of their lawns to grow vegetables. Unfortunately, some cities and townships still have archaic codes stipulating that trees and grass should be the primary elements in front yards. “Renegade” gardeners are bucking the system and the trend is beginning to take hold. Edibles make more environmental and economic sense. Irrigation costs are going toward something that can be consumed, rather than simply admired. Front-yard produce also makes eating healthy more affordable and accessible. Who can argue with that?
Over the past several years, according to a 2006 National Gardening Survey, interest in vegetable gardening remained relatively steady. U.S. households growing vegetables ranged from 22 to 25 percent. Sales of vegetable seeds decreased in 2006, while vegetable transplants saw a slight increase. Organic food sales increased 38.4%, according to consumer research company Mintel International. The company projected that sales of organic foods will increase 71% through 2011.
With higher food and fuel prices (mainly in transportation costs) along with food safety issues as top reasons for growing your own, homegrown veggies are beginning to look like a lot more reasonable alternative to supermarket offerings.
No matter the reason for the increase in new gardeners, I wish to extent a hearty welcome to all of the new comers and to those who are converting flowers to vegetables. Perhaps we will see an increase in the number of blogs to help feed our voyeuristic tendencies.


Farmer de Ville June 23, 2008 at 7:34 AM  

I'm in the process of trying to rid my property of lawn and replace it with edible and low-maintenance plantings. Turf is just such a waste of time and resources.

Greg W June 23, 2008 at 9:48 AM  

I'm slowly replacing parts of my lawn with herbs, and attempting to learn how to use them as well.

Checked out your blog, very interesting. I like the stories.

Thanks for stopping by.

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