Friday, September 24, 2010

Working together to feed ourselves

My current community, Santa Monica, California is a seaside city with approximately 82,000 official residents and more than a few more unofficial residents. The climate is Mediterranean with cool summers and warm winters, relatively speaking. Temperatures rarely exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

And the residents of this Eden in America import well over 95% of all the food they eat. Meanwhile we spend exorbitant amounts of money on ornamental landscaping and upkeep. All of which seems an enormous waste of time, money, energy and other resources.

I mean, if we are going to plant a tree, why not plant an orange, fig or avocado tree and enjoy the fruits as well as the appearance? If we are going to plants a bushy shrub, why not plant tomatoes, beans or grapes? If we want vining ground cover, what about squash, pumpkins or melons? And if we want green on our lawns, how about lettuce, radishes and carrots?

There are lots of reasons, I suppose but I doubt if any of them or all of them added together suffice to make the case against growing our own. I think three primary factors prevent us from trying to grow our own food. First, we are afraid of failure. Or more specifically of getting our plants to grow out to almost harvest time only to have a garden pest come along and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Welcome to gardening. And second, on the complete other side, we are afraid of producing way too much and not knowing what to do with it. Ask my friend with her overwhelming fig tree and its over-production this season. Finally, we grow grass and other ornamentals out of habit, or peer pressure or both. We want to show off our opulence like the French monarchy of old, so we grow grass like they grew grass.

Here's my dream. Santa Monicans join together to grow and exchange their own foods using whatever resources are available to them. The City uses its land holdings to grow food instead of lawns. The schools use their land holdings to teach students how to grow and distribute food instead of providing employment for lawn care professionals. Homeowners pay their gardeners to produce food instead of grass clippings. And apartment dwellers get some containers and use their patios to grow a little food, instead of storing their rusting barbecue.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, I will be posting hints, tips and directions on producing and sharing our own food, grown fresh, right here in Santa Monica.

1 comment:

  1. Love it. In today's multitasking life it seems only sensible that we should task our landscapes with feeding us as well as looking beautiful. People need to see plants as vital and active members of their communities, contributing (in addition to possible nutrition) shade, oxygen, sound buffers, evolving beauty, connection, soil stability, wildlife corridor habitats, etc. In return for the increased food bounty (and security), we build the kind of lasting communities that allow land stewardship rather than ownership, replenishing the natural cycle. Wish you lots of luck with getting the word out!