A Terroirist Plot On American Soil

I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but this whole Earth Day thing is really just a front for a cabal of dirt-loving luddites determined to destroy life as we know it in America. Dig down below that crunchy granola surface, that coalition of fruits and nuts (so annoyingly high in moral fiber) and you’ll find a half-baked conspiracy to deprive us of some of our most cherished traditions: lush lawns unblemished by dandelions or dangling laundry; easy-to-heat, awful-to-eat cuisine; four wheel-drive vehicles with single digit gas mileage, and so on.

These terroirists hate our freewheeling ways, and, no, that’s not a typo. It’s a homegrown insurgency inspired by the French notion of “terroir”--the way that a specific region’s soil and climate influence the foods and beverages produced there.

Wikipedia loosely translates terroir as "a sense of place;” locavores, aka food mile fanatics, describe it as “the taste of here.” It’s a foreign concept to most Americans, whose terroir tends to be the suburban supermarket; there’s no “here” there, just overprocessed, overpackaged food that’s traveled thousands of miles by truck, ship or plane.

We’ve been awfully piggy about our oil consumption, as Jad Mouawad noted in the New York Times last Sunday:

The United States is the only major industrialized nation to see its oil consumption surge since the oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. This can partly be explained by the fact that the United States has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world, the least fuel-efficient cars on the roads, the lowest energy taxes, and the longest daily commutes of any industrialized nation. The result: about a quarter of the world’s oil goes to the United States every day, and of that, more than half goes to its cars and trucks.

Keep in mind that we’re only 4% of the world’s population. A graph accompanying Mouwad’s piece showed that other developed nations have managed to keep their consumption levels in check or even lower them significantly; Sweden and Denmark have reduced their oil use by 32% and 33% respectively.

Our oil consumption, on the other hand, rose 21% as we hitched our wagon to a fantasy of infinite—and cheap—fossil fuels, and went on building bigger houses, buying bigger cars, choosing longer commutes, eating more fossil-fueled fast foods.

Along the way, we glorified wastefulness and gluttony, converted fertile farms to sterile sprawl, stopped building sidewalks, marginalized mass transit, banned backyard clotheslines and front yard food gardens, and sent our soldiers off to die defending what is, at the end of the day, a pretty indefensible way of life.

And now we’ve got an agri-culture war here at home. Rising fuel and food costs, along with concerns about global warming, have given a growing army of “front-yard farmers,” as the Wall Street Journal calls them, plenty of ammunition in their war to replace resource-hogging, planet-polluting lawns with food gardens. Read the objections from grass-addled neighbors who view these minifarms as a blight, and you’ll see why Michael Pollan qualifies growing one’s own food as a “subversive” act.

Pollan’s the most high-profile combatant in the grow-your-own guerrilla campaign, his latest contribution being a piece in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine’s “green” issue that cites planting a vegetable garden as one thing an individual can do to combat climate change and shorten the food chain. But he’s got plenty of company; Rip-Out-Your-Lawn-And-Grow-Veggies is a hot literary genre these days; in addition to Pollan’s best seller, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, there’s Heather Flores’s Food Not Lawns and Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates: Attack On The Front Lawn.

There are websites to inspire the would-be urban homesteader, too, such as Kitchen Gardeners International, whose founder, Roger Doiron, is on a mission to convince the next occupant of the White House to revive the wartime tradition of the victory gardens that provided us with plenty of homegrown produce during World War II. And The Path To Freedom website documents the astounding quantity of food one family produces on a fifth of an acre in Pasadena, California.

But the curb-your-carbon-footprint campaign doesn’t stop at the curb; it’s infiltrated the institutional food sector, too, as an article in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times noted. Enlightened eaters are encouraging university and corporate campuses to drop the mass-produced glop and start serving “real food,” i.e. meals made with as many fresh, local, organically grown ingredients as possible. Efforts to reduce waste and compost kitchen scraps are becoming more common, too.

At the forefront of this movement is a coalition of students who are launching a national campaign called The Real Food Challenge, whose goal is to “create a food system that truly nourishes people, communities, and the earth.”

In other words, a food system diametrically opposed to the one we have now; you know, the one that nourishes obesity, diabetes, animal abuse, worker abuse, pollution, and global warming. The one that our tax payer dollars have been underwriting even as it undermines us all, as Christopher Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis points out in an op-ed in today’s Christian Science Monitor.

So how do these wild-eyed idealists define “Real Food”?

…food that is ethically produced, with fair treatment of workers, equitable relationships with farmers (locally and abroad), and humanely treated animals. It’s food that is environmentally sustainable—grown without chemical pesticides, large-scale mono-cropping, or huge carbon footprints. Real Food is food that tastes good, builds community, and has the potential to inspire broad-scale social change.

Aha! You see, they even admit that overthrowing our uber-consumer culture is part of their agenda. So don’t be fooled by the rash of feel-good festivities and token tree hugging that inevitably breaks out around Earth Day. It’s really an all-out assault on your right as an American to plunder the planet. Alert Homeland Security! Code Green! There's an elevated risk of attack by trowel-toting terroirists.

I write about the origin of

I write about the origin of food, about how food teaches us rituals. I share stories about growers and food artisans.
I write about bringing small groups of people together to share food and stories about food with the idea that just like anyone can learn to waltz, anyone can learn to cook from scratch using "slow-grown" and "slow-cooked" foods, supporting small markets and sustainable farms and in the process, knowing the origin of what they put in their mouths.

Global Warming

Yes, we are causing global warming and we are not just destroying this planet. We are destroying the entire solar system. We have become so destructive that our SUVs and CO2 spewing factories, even as we exhale our CO2, we are affecting the other planets. There are new storms on Jupiter that scientists are attributing to climate change. The CO2 content on Mars is 95%. They have documented increasing temperatures on the other planets as well. Obviously, it is due to OUR use of all these evil CO2 spewing things, even our own breath. We ARE destroying everything and it must stop. So, all of us who value our fragile planet and our fragile solar system, we must STOP using everything that exudes CO2. If that means including killing ourselves, so be it. We MUST save our world and our solar system...NOW!!!

Terroirist plot. Genius,

Terroirist plot. Genius, love it!

Our Identity Crisis

Thanks for sharing your entertaining and informative angst. We give this movement of returning to a sustainable and agrarian lifestyle all kinds of labels, but is it possible that we're just trying to find ourselves again? We have a kind of identity crisis because we no longer recognize our local surroundings as essential to sustain us. I'm one of those who thinks "place" is a component of personal identity. When we give up plots of land to feed our greed, we're not just selling a place but a piece of our (or someone else's) sense of self.

Check out my blog: Slow Food Waltz. I write about the origin of food, about how food teaches us rituals. I share stories about growers and food artisans. I write about bringing small groups of people together to share food and stories about food with the idea that just like anyone can learn to waltz, anyone can learn to cook from scratch using "slow-grown" and "slow-cooked" foods, supporting small markets and sustainable farms and in the process, knowing the origin of what they put in their mouths.


Right on!

Thanks for this!

Thank You!

Thanks for the amazing article! I was thrilled to find your site. My husband and I tore our front lawn up, right in the middle of Los Angeles, and are growing our vegetables there. It has become infectious! Several homes on our block have started growing food as well.

Our garden blog is:


Please visit, and I will be reading your posts every day!