A HOMEGROWN REBELLION

How did planting a vegetable garden go from being a civic duty to an act of civil disobedience? During World War II, our government called on us to fight food shortages by growing our own fruits and vegetables. Americans who had never picked up a trowel rolled up their sleeves and got digging, and managed to grow nearly forty percent of the produce we consumed during the war.

In an era when we rely more and more on imported foods, the notion of food security, or food sovereignty, is truly a foreign concept. Towns across America have laws against replacing your lawn with a lettuce patch, despite the fact that it wouldn’t take much of a kink in our twisted food chain, whether from a man-made crisis or a natural catastrophe, to screw up our food supply.

But gardeners are tearing up their turf and planting tomatoes in defiance, and websites calling on mowers to become growers are flourishing, from Kitchen Gardeners International and Path to Freedom to Sustainable Urban Gardens and Edible Estates.

Lawns have become a luxury we can’t afford, a symbol of “gross waste and mindless affluence,” according to Heather Flores, author of the edible landscaping manifesto Food Not Lawns.

“The average American lawn,” Flores writes, “could produce several hundred pounds of food a year.”

And may soon have to, if our climate change cassandras turn out to be right about how global warming is going to kink up our food chain. From James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency:

The crisis in agriculture will be one of the defining conditions of the Long Emergency. We will simply have to grow more of our food locally. The crisis will present itself when industrial farming, dependent on massive oil and gas “inputs” at gigantic scales of operation, can no longer be carried on economically. The implications for how we use our land are tremendous, and the unavoidable change is likely to be accompanied by severe social turbulence, not to mention hunger and hardship…food production at the local level may become the focus of the American economy.

Those bans on front yard food gardens will be a thing of the past. Along with all those ordinances that forbid clotheslines on the grounds that air drying your laundry is an aesthetic offense. You think a laundry line’s unsightly? Try a bread line. Now, that’s an ugly sight.