The following blog post appears on my “Media and the Environment” class blog. I’ve posted it on my blog to share some of what I’ve learned this semester.
I continually see it pop up in my News Feed on Facebook: “______ found some rare eggs to share with their friends!” or ” ______ just harvested their chicken coop. ”
Those aren’t my friends’ status updates. They’re recent actions in a game made popular by Facebook called FarmVille.
Basically FarmVille allows people to grow and harvest crops, raise animals and keep gardens on a farm. I often wonder how much the game has inspired its players to start growing food in real life.
In the game, players usually use every plot of land they have for something — growing, raising animals or building sheds, barns, etc. I think this part of the game actually can translate well to a recent food movement: eat your lawn or food, not lawns.
No, this isn’t to suggest we all graze like cows in our neighborhoods, but it does question our society’s obsession with having nice lawns and using resources to grow grass when those resources could be used to grow food.
The movement came after Heather C. Flores wrote Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community. The book reflects Heather’s idea that people could connect to each other and to their community through growing food together.
Most gardens I’ve seen at friends’ or family’s homes take up a small section of the backyard, which is nice for growing a few vegetables. But for someone who values variety and having plenty to eat, I can understand why people would want to actually use their lawns for more than just decorative purposes.
One family in Lawrence, Jeremy and Amber Lehrman, started their own version of “food, not lawns” about four years ago and to both use and sell what they grow. Amber said when she and her husband started to expand their garden to cover more of their yard, it was because they wanted locally-grown food rather than because they had heard about the “food, not lawns” idea. They also realized they could help lessen the impact of food that travels hundreds of miles.
“We wanted to eat farmers’ market food but couldn’t afford farmers’ market food,” she said.
The Lehrmans started with a 4-by-12-foot garden. Amber said each year the garden seemed to double. Now they’re out of room to keep expanding. For the last two years, Jeremy and Amber’s garden has produced more than 1,400 pounds each year. They’re hoping for 2,000 pounds this year.
I can only imagine what would be possible if more Lawrencians caught on to the movement. There might be more of a selection at the farmers’ market, there would be more locally-grown produce restaurants could use and more people in Lawrence could engage with their community. I think the most rewarding aspect behind “food, not lawns” isn’t the food. People in communities are given a common interest and have common activities, like seed exchanges, in which they can interact with each other.
It’s easy to say, “If only Lawrence had an infinite amount of land.” But maybe we do have enough land here to grow as much of what we want. We’re just not seeing what is really right in front of us.
— Lauren Cunningham