Tuesday, October 28, 2008

vegetable garden politics

I came Micheal Pollen's letter in the NY Times this week (I'm a bit late, I've been too busy):

"Farmer in Chief", a letter to the NY Times by Michael Pollen (link):

I added a few excerpts here, because its a great topic, but you can go ahead and read all 8,000 words (!) yourself.

"After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent." "...chemical fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery, modern food processing, packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food."

What to do?
Resolarize the American Farm
Reregionalize the Food System
Rebuild America’s Food Culture

"...most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.

"When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population. Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change. (We should offer grants to cities to build allotment gardens for people without access to land.) Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system — something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.

"I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community. The fact that surplus produce from the South Lawn Victory Garden (and there will be literally tons of it) will be offered to regional food banks will make its own eloquent statement."

Just imagine! I bet it would be a beautiful garden!

KGI originated this proposal with their "Eat the View" campaign. They have some nice information on this topic here.

White House veggie garden proposal


Fiona said...

Wow! I saw the headline but didn't read the editorial. Now, I'll have to go back and read it. Thank you for pulling out these paragraphs.

All I did this year was four containers (tomatoes, herbs, chard, citrus (obviously those two are perennials I move inside in the winter)), but it was hard work anyway. And I'd love to do more. I'm composting this year for the first time.

So I agree whole heartedly about the physical benefits, and the nutritional ones are even more important.

Great post, thanks!

I don't comment often, but I rss your blog and really look forward to it. Your work in the community garden has been wonderful to see.

kathy said...

Gardening is so rewarding. Your containers sound great.

I can't help but think how nice a five acre kitchen garden would look on the WHL. I bet Gretta (my local CSA farmer who's always looking for more dirt) would make it very productive!

reetajenet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kathy said...

HI reetajenet,

Sorry to delete your post. If you'd like to advertise on my site, please email me at carletongardener@bioarray.us. Thanks!

pjkobulnicky said...

My wife got to hear Pollan at Oberlin Tuesday night. He was asked if the presidential candidates had read the letter and he replied that only one campaign responded and even they asked for a two page summary ... which he refused since it was already 8 pages short.

This does have to be a (ahem) grass roots effort.


kathy said...

HI pjkobulnicky, I bet your wife enjoyed the lecture. Thanks for the comment!

But I'm not surprised the candidates don't have time to respond. I don't think food/gardening politics competes with all the other US issues now (international relations, energy sources, debt reduction, health care, economy, climate change, defense, etc etc), unfortunately. Us gardeners are just doing are own small part.... It does impact all of the issues in own, grass roots, way.