By Ande Finley
As we barrel head-long into spring, out come the pickaxes, hoes, and shovels. Seed packets are inventoried and orders placed. Garden plans are adjusted. Perennials are already rearing their tender heads.
Roger Doiron, head of Kitchen Gardeners International, calls his ex-lawn, now vegetable garden, his subversive plot. Encouraging people to take power over their own food, health, and pocketbook, he believes, can radically alter the balance of power on the planet. And, unlike most other subversive activity, it doesn’t require taking power away from others; in fact, it works best if it is shared with as many people as possible.
Paralleling an obesity epidemic spreading outward from the U.S. to the rest of the developed world, global hunger is also on the rise. World food prices and population continue to skyrocket. As of 2007, this planet went from being primarily rural to urban, eliminating many potential sources of food.
“To keep up with population growth,” says Doiron, “more food will have to be produced worldwide over the next fifty years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined.”
Food will have to be grown:
-With less oil now that we have reached peak oil production according to many industry sources. Currently, 10 calories of fossil fuel energy are used to produce one calorie of food energy;
-With less water due to the increasing drought conditions world-wide;
– With less farmland due to the desertification of the global south and suburban sprawl in the north;
– With less climate stability;
– With less genetic diversity as seed systems are increasingly controlled by corporations and become compromised by genetic modification;
– With less time. The average American family spends 31 minutes preparing, eating, and cleaning up for every meal. How to fit in time to grow the food?
However, each of these problems carries within the seed of its own solution.
After the sudden loss of their main supply of petroleum when the Soviet Union fell in the early 1990’s, Cuba proved that moving away from a mechanized system of farming and dependence on chemical fertilizers is not only possible, but preferable.
If the wild success of the Transition Movement is any gauge, communities all over the world are starting to put deep thinking and planning into responses to issues of climate change, seed preservation, and food sovereignty. Drought-tolerant fruit and vegetable varieties as well as dry farming methods have been developed for a wide range of climatic conditions with a great deal of success. Revitalization of the public seed systems that once served our communities is becoming a priority; witness our own new Seed Library at Common Ground, a sustainable net zero energy project.
In 2008, Kitchen Gardeners International, an organization of 20,000 individuals in 100 countries, led a successful advocacy campaign called “Eat the View” which convinced First Lady Michele Obama to replace the Rose Garden with a kitchen garden at the White House and inspire millions of Americans to plant their own. Although only 2 percent of our country’s produce comes from home gardens today, at the height of the Victory Gardens movement during World War II, 40 percent of all produce came from backyards. When the public will conceives a passion, anything is possible.
Gardens grow safe, delicious, gorgeous food and healthy kids as well as economic well-being. Doiron and his wife kept meticulous records one year and discovered that they saved well over $2,000 on produce feeding their family of five. Excluding, of course, the doctor’s bills and gym memberships they didn’t have. And year by year they are also helping to grow the next generation of kitchen gardeners.
Ultimately, all solutions start at home. Those of us who are avid vegetable garden converts can inspire our families, friends, and neighbors through conversation and example. Here on Lopez, you can attend a Garden Club meeting, contact the Washington State University Master Gardeners (http://sanjuan.wsu.edu/mastergardeners/), or ask any one of the hundreds of people who garden here on island if you have questions. Ana Malinoff of Greenheart Gardens offers her local seeds direct (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through Blossom Natural Foods.
Be a Locavore. Just plant one vegetable this summer and we promise, forever after, you will only want to grow your own.