Synopses & Reviews
Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution--it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt. Food Not Lawns combines practical wisdom on ecological design and community-building with a fresh, green perspective on an age-old subject. Activist and urban gardener Heather Flores shares her nine-step permaculture design to help farmsteaders and city dwellers alike build fertile soil, promote biodiversity, and increase natural habitat in their own "paradise gardens." But Food Not Lawns doesn't begin and end in the seed bed. This joyful permaculture lifestyle manual inspires readers to apply the principles of the paradise garden--simplicity, resourcefulness, creativity, mindfulness, and community--to all aspects of life. Plant "guerilla gardens" in barren intersections and medians; organize community meals; start a street theater troupe or host a local art swap; free your kitchen from refrigeration and enjoy truly fresh, nourishing foods from your own plot of land; work with children to create garden play spaces. Flores cares passionately about the damaged state of our environment and the ills of our throwaway society. In Food Not Lawns, she shows us how to reclaim the earth one garden at a time.
Publisher's Weekly Online, December 2006:
"For Flores, "practicing ecological living is a deeply subversive act," and while most gardening books do not include warnings that COINTELPRO "can and willàrape you," it is only because most gardening books do not encourage "guerilla gardening" after describing the basics of garden planning and pruning. More advanced topics range from integrating barnyard birds into a garden to getting more mileage out of the home water cycle to the benefits of a balanced insect population. The illustrations are amusing as well as helpful, and though the index is not extensive, the book, overall, is a much better read than the average gardening book, both in terms of range and entertainment value."
Review by Micheal Sunanda, Oness Press:
"This is the most inspiring book on naturalizing our home & neighborhood relationships I've ever read, after 30 years of study & practice. I've visited 100s of gardens in a dozen nations & grown them in Oregon, Puget sound, Hawaii & Australia during my Permaculture design course training with Robyn Francis in Nimbin NSW.
If you want to green up your yard & grow fresh organic food at home, this is it. Heather's writing is lucid, clear & personal 'how to' do it at every stage beginning to ever growing greener. I've known her since late '90s when she & friends began to urbanize Permaculture, ie organic homesteading with many cooperative projects, gardening in a park, seed swaps, workshops, etc. So Food Not Lawns was born of instingating local groups for green homes. Now there's few 1000 gardens growing food, herbs & flowers around town & 100s of fruit trees dropping food in season.
About the gardening techniques of so Food Not Lawns, simply beautiful illustrations of natural elements of gardening: composting, planting, mulching, water cycles, microcosmos of soil fertility in urban ecology. It's great for beginners to advanced. Her chapters on "Free your lawn, Gaining ground, The Water cycle, Living soil, plants & polyculture, Seed stewardship, Ecological design, Beyond the garden, Into the community, Reaching out, Working together & The next generation" are simple, innovative & immense potentials of growing more healthy.
It contains vast resources on many all levels organic & cooperative. She write more personal, friendly & sensitive than pioneering books by Bill Mollison & David Holmgren on Permaculture. I'm amazed at how she's gathered & explains 100s of ways to transform our homes & community into abundant green-belts around our yard. It guides us into sources of fertility, beauty, pleasure, green work & cooperating with Nature & our neighbors raising awareness about 100s of codependent cycles supporting our natural living anywhere on earth."
THE GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT TO GROW FOOD, NOT GRASS - from http://eatingliberally.org. Submitted by kat on October 11, 2006:
"The American suburb is "the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world," as peak oil prophet James Howard Kunstler is fond of saying. In his latest book, The Long Emergency, Kunstler predicts that our fossil-fueled way of life is going to literally run out of gas, precipitating, among other things, an agricultural crisis of epic proportions: 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 hardshipàfood production at the local level may become the focus of the American economy.
If Kunstler's dire forecast turns out to be accurate, we're all going to need to get our hands on a copy of Food Not Lawns, a terrific and timely new paperback from progressive publisher Chelsea Green, authored by activist and urban gardener H.C. Flores.
Flores is a proponent of permaculture, a sustainable way of landscaping inspired by natural eco-systems. Her book presents a nine-step plan to transform the typical wasteland of turf into a productive, environmentally friendly "paradise garden" bursting with edible bounty. "The average American lawn," according to Flores, "could produce several hundred pounds of food a year."
Food Not Lawns began as an offshoot of the grassroots group Food Not Bombs, a non-profit with chapters all over the country that provides free vegetarian meals to the hungry using donated ingredients that would otherwise end up in a dumpster.
Flores' experience cooking and serving meals with Food Not Bombs gave her a new ambition; instead of simply providing food to others, she wanted to teach people how to provide for themselves. She describes Food Not Lawns as a "grassroots gardening project geared toward using waste resources to grow organic gardens and encouraging others to share their space, surplus, and ideas toward the betterment of the whole community."
The more Flores learned about food, agriculture, and land use, she says, the more she came to see the typical suburban lawn as a symbol of "gross waste and mindless affluence."
Michael Pollan, always ahead of the cultural curve, documented the downside of our mania for manicured lawns fifteen years ago in his book Second Nature, an entertaining and enlightening account of his evolution as a gardener. Like so many Americans, Pollan once thought nothing of devoting four hours each Saturday to mowing his lawn. After a season of this, though, disillusionment crept in: I tired of the endless circuit, pushing the howling mower back and forth across the vast page of my yard, recopying the same green sentence over and over: "I am a conscientious homeowner. I share your middle-class values...
àThe more serious about gardening I became, the more dubious lawns seemedàI became convinced that lawn care had about as much to do with gardening as floor-waxing, or road paving. Gardening was a subtle process of give-and-take with the landscape, a search for some middle ground between culture and nature. A lawn was nature under culture's boot.
Mowing the lawn, I felt like I was battling the earth rather than working it; each week it sent forth a green army and each week I beat it back with my infernal machine. Unlike every other plant in my garden, the grasses were anonymous, massified, deprived of any change or development whatsoever, not to mention any semblance of self-determination. I ruled a totalitarian landscape.
In fact, our lawn fetish is downright fascistic; lawns gobble up more resources and create more pollution than industrial farming, and yet, so enshrined is the American lawn as the suburban ideal that it's quite literally against the law in some places to opt out of the lawn loop and plant a more sustainable landscape.
Salt Lake City's maverick Mayor Rocky Anderson decided to defy a local ordinance that makes front lawns mandatory when he got rid of his grass and replaced it with drought-tolerant native plants. Anderson, a Democrat, supports all kinds of radical concepts, such as same-sex marriage and a living wage. He worries about climate change, and is opposed to sprawl. His front yard, which now consumes 65% percent less water, is a shining example of conservation—and totally illegal.
There's nothing green about America's love of lawns, and there's something terribly wrong with a culture where conservation has become a form of civil disobedience. The weaknesses of our industrial food chain and the unsustainable terrain of turf that surrounds suburbia have inspired a grassroots movement to grow not grass, but food.
The Dervae family of suburban Pasadena is the perfect embodiment of this movement. The Dervaes manage to grow three tons of food organically each year on one-tenth of an acre of land, enabling them to not only feed themselves but to sell surplus produce to local chefs. They share their gift for self-sufficiency gardening through a project they call The Path to Freedom.
If you're ready to be liberated, Food Not Lawns is the perfect introduction to the permaculture revolution, sowing the seeds for an enlightened, sustainable way to nourish ourselves and our neighbors. James Howard Kunstler claims we're all going to have to start growing our own food, anyway, so you might as well get a head start. People who know how to grow their own produce are going to be very popular in the post-petroleum era."
"Flores has an engaging style and is clearly passionate about her subject..." - Library Journal review, November 2006
"For activist readers who believe activism is a political pursuit, FOOD NOT LAWNS: HOW TO TURN YOUR YARD INTO A GARDEN AND YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD INTO A COMMUNITY offers a different viewpoint, maintaining that growing food where you live is a key method of becoming a food activist in the community. Chapters advocate planting home and community gardens with an eye to drawing important connections between the politics of a home or community garden and the wider politics of usage, consumption, and sustainability. Another rarity: chapters promote small, easy changes in lifestyles to achieve a transition between personal choice and political activism at the community level, providing keys to change any reader can use." - Bookwatch/Midwest Book Review, December 2006
"Certified permaculture designer Flores advocates living an ecologically friendly lifestyle by creating gardens. Following a foreword by Toby Hemenway (Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture), she discusses the identification of garden sites, the water cycle and water conservation, soils and composting, plants, how to save seed, project design, the fostering of community involvement, the inclusion of children in projects, the sharing of information, and activism. Many of Flores's ideas are for the extremely committed. She advocates dumpster digging, composting human feces, and living life without appliances like refrigerators. She also suggests growing food on land, not necessarily with the landowner's permission, and espouses gray-water conservation techniques that may be illegal in some communities. While growing your own food is a worthy goal, Flores doesn't always seem to recognize the hard work involved. She also doesn't expand on all of her ideas, but she does offer an extensive list of resources for further research. Flores has an engaging style and is clearly passionate about her subject, and her debut book provides an alternative viewpoint, but it will probably not interest mainstream audiences. Purchase as required." - Library Journal review by Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove Public Library, November 15, 2006.
"More than just another gardening book, Food Not Lawns provides a road map for ecological and social literacy in our own backyards and neighborhoods. A quiet revolution is taking place across the country centered on small plots in urban and suburban areas where food is being produced, jobs grown, and real community developed. This timely book serves as an important guide, providing a source of both information and inspiration for one of the most hopeful and exciting movements of our time." --Michael Ableman, author of Fields Of Plenty
"Food Not Lawns is radical (rooted), subversive (underground), and seeded throughout with treasures that will sprout into savory, beautiful flowers. Don't just buy this book: Read it. Don't just read this book: Do it. Grow a garden. And let the weeds grow; they're good medicine."--Susun Weed, Wise Woman Herbal Series
"Food Not Lawns is a wonderful book expanding on the idea that we can do more than just protest but that we have the power to create the world we want. Food Not Lawns is a practical guide to feeding ourselves and making positive change. In a time of so much hopelessness this book reminds us that there really is so much we can do. I encourage everyone seeking peace and well being to dig into this rich loam of information. It will inspire you to grow food not lawns." --Keith McHenry, Co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement
Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution?it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt.
cover illustration by Bonnie Behan
About the Author
Heather C. Flores, a certified permaculture designer, holds a BA degree in ecology, education, and the arts from Goddard College. She offers environmental landscape design and consultation services. Flores' next project is to use low-tech performance arts to bridge cultural and economic gaps in environmental education. She lives in Oregon. Toby Hemenway is the author of the first major North American book on permaculture, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and an adjunct assistant professor at Portland State University. He was the editor of Permaculture Activist for five years and is currently working to develop urban sustainability resources in Portland, Oregon.