Food Not Lawns

Hi! Welcome to the first entry for this blog. This is a blog about city planning and environmental design in an anarchist world. The entries herein will hopefully discuss everything from home gardening to the latest articles in popular planning and architecture publications.

For this first entry, I write about home gardening, particularly the Food Not Lawns movement. Perhaps one of the very best and easiest ways to egg on the coming anarchist world is simply to help create it now. That means changing a lot of the ways you do things. There are a great many anarchists who feel strongly to directly physically attack the system itself to cause its destruction. I cannot question their profound wisdom, but I cannot also ignore the many other ways which one can act to bring about dramatic change. There is perhaps a great value also in directly transforming the world into the vision we desire — an end to all hierarchies, the end of rulers – the end of ownership.

If we have cities at all, they must provide for our every need. When we walk through them, there is so much freely to eat, provide shelter, clothing, deep and passionate networks of relationships. A part of that vision is the Food Not Lawns movement in which there is no more disconnection from the “landscape”. Presently we walk down the streets in which all things are owned and we can see, but cannot touch. It is sterile. Inanimate. Like a photograph everywhere we walk. In the anarchist world, there is no more disconnect. We experience hunger and together we partake of the good things around us. We do not make things for those in other lands, we do not buy and sell. When one grows food, there is no boundary of ownership, and we all want to feast, so we plant together the seeds we love, and the earth is so abundant that there is usually far too much for us alone to enjoy. For those walking by, they know this too, and in the abundant fields and front yards, they partake. As Jesus is well known to have said:

   Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
   Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
   Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
   And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
   And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
   Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
   Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (Matthew 6:25-31)

Surely Jesus, in many repects, could be interpreted as an anarchist. I have no doubt. In anarchism we can live a sedentary life, or we can live like the birds. But when we think about feeding ourselves, we realize that there is no distinction between our life and the lives of others and plant so that all may partake, for the seeds of the earth make far more than we can eat alone.

That is a lesson I have learned from my own gardening. When one plants so many things: Diakon radishes, beets, squashes of so many varieties, corn, chard, so many varieties of fruit trees, and almost all of the usual weeds in one’s yard are edible too — there is always far more than I can eat alone. Think of if everyone planted up their yards, what would the cities be like?

I know in my front yard, and I live on a busy street, we have fruit trees planted all along the sidewalks, and tomato plants galore. When people walk by they pick them and take them home to eat. Is it stealing? – to some – but for others, it is helping to create the world we really want.

Actually, a few months back I got to hear a presentation by Heather C. Flores the author of the book Food Not Lawns (link 1, link 2)


Her presentation was so inspiring. Honestly, a good portion of the presentation were things I learned while attending BYU, and some of these are principles I see as used in the Franklin-Covey planning system and in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. BYU is a great for that, but in the malcontent/anarchist community people are not all that favorable to digesting such “corporatized” ideas, this presentation I think really helped make the concepts of goals and planning feel accessible:

Basically, Food Not Lawns is about turning your yard, front and back, into a garden to eat from to both feed yourself, your neighbors, and to build a community that transcends ownership constructs. Flores used the term “Eco-revelatory Action” to describe it. It means where architecture exposes nature. Ze said we need eco-revelatory action for fun and profit (profit meaning not money, but – to eat peaches!).

One of hir first points was that growing up we get use to calling food by its corporate names: Cherrios, 7-up, Cheetos, etc. and when we start growing things we realize many of the names that actual source-food has: Broccoli, apples, leeks, etc. and we discover how they actually grow too!

Ze suggested we look at several types of community farming. Ze recommended we check out the Wintergreen Farm as a good example of larger scale onsite community farming. Also, we ought to think about our yards as public benefit yards, that we transform them to be inviting for people to partake of the fruit thereof, but also to enjoy through other interaction with it, homemade furniture/seating, and general homemade yard art.

Throughout the presentation ze suggested that we get community festivals going whereat people exchange and share what they know and have. This includes things such as:

- Seed exchanges
- workshops teaching alternative building materials (cobb, strawbale, anything you can recycle) or how to skin and tan an animal yourself
- hosting “convergences” such as the Village Building Convergence or events such as City Repair activities (see City Repair).

On other scales and in other ways, ze suggested that we could grow a whole ton of seedlings and put them out on the street with a sign, “FREE SQUASH PLANTS” and soon the entire neighborhood is overgrown with crook-neck yellow squash! One can also make seedballs by making balls of clay, putting seeds in them and then hand them out to people.

Other ideas include potlucks, knocking on the doors of your neighbors to tell them what you’re doing with your yard and getting them involved, putting a freebox at your front curb with things you don’t need or want for just anybody to freely take.

A major point was that it doesn’t matter what you do to build the community spirit, it just matters that we all do something. Inaction just perpetuates alienation.

Also, these activities help to bridge many generational gaps in numerous ways.

Ze, as well, introduced something ze called the GOBRADIME Design Process which was essentially a list of ideas about how to look at the world through some new eyes to be more productive in our endeavors.

- Have “Goals” for: 1) Diversity, 2)Accessibility, 3) Abundance

- Be in “Observation” of:
1) Patterns
2) Projects - look for others doing the same thing
3) People
4) Plants - look what’s going on in nature, like what plants are growing really well in your soil or not

- Realize where there are “Boundaries” encompassing time, money, physical energy, people in a group, breaking into smaller groups when needed:
1) Physical
2) Emotional
3) Cultural
4) Economic
5) Ecological

- “Resources” are everywhere:
1) Surplus - often referred to as “waste” in capitalism
2) Shared - like a skateboarding park
3) Recycled

- “Analysis,” step back from what you’re doing and see if there is possibly a better way:
1) Practical
2) Theoretical
3) Creative
4) Community

- Remember principles of “Design” when you work:
1) Document - everything! – this also is very helpful for when doing your post project analysis to improve it, and when you want to replicate the project the new year or whenever.
2) Phase planning
3) Timeline
4) Task-based - there are steps to creating all things/projects, you may also want to write them out on cards for easy rearrangement in the planning process

- “Implementation” of your project; remember:
1) Pace - find the right speed to accomplish your project
2) Process - everything is in steps
3) Rest - do it every day, we all need to recharge. (I think this is something that we all could be a little more thoughtful about. Certainly, very arguably, anarchism is also about dissolving the division between work and play. I guess we can “rest” from play too.)
4) Innovation - this comes a great deal from rest and reflection

- “Management” - everything needs to be managed
1) Maintenance - over long periods, how will this be done
2) Monitoring - is the project working as we idealize
3) Marketing - getting the word out and people involved

- “Evaluation”:
1) Attitude - how did you feel during the project
2) Aptitude - what was easy for you
3) Strengths and Weaknesses - everyone has them

“How can the world get along if we can’t get along” – the food not lawns movement is about helping people to get along.

The aim is to make things cheap, low expense, and low labour as much as possible in these endeavors, but especially fun.

“Even if the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant A tree today.”

Nov. 18, 2008