By Warren Johnston
December 5, 2008
In Food Not Lawns, Heather C. Flores shows how easy it can be for anyone who cares about the Earth to grow gardens and build communities.
The first half of the book deals with gardening and focuses on how to establish ecological paradise gardens using available resources. The book also explains such elements of a garden as water, soil, plants and seeds, as well as how to design an ecologically friendly, low maintenance garden. The second half of the book takes the garden experience to the community level.
Flores has a bachelor's degree in ecology, education and the arts from Vermont's Goddard College. She's a certified permaculture designer and environmental educator. She lives in Eugene, Ore.
Peak Oil Resources Review
If you have ever taken a look around your suburban surroundings and thought that it seemed pointless for someone to spend hours and hours fertilizing, weeding, mowing, and trimming a lawn, this book was written for you. I have had such thoughts. I even (just once!) fertilized my lawn before I realized how pointless this process was. All of this time and energy to produce... not fruits, not vegetables... grass clippings. Sure, a well-kept lawn is attractive. But it is not nearly as attractive (and fruitful) as a well designed garden.
Heather Flores brings "Paradise Gardening" (essentially permaculture) to paper in a wonderful way that is simply difficult to oppose. While the arguments for such changes in lifestyle and outdoor design are logical, her reasoning will touch an element of your soul that aches for something more tangible and lasting than a contrived suburban existence. She starts by examining the futility of modern lawn arrangements and the equally curious structure of our use and waste of water. She then dives into reviving the soil, designing niches for everything from herbs and vines to vegetables and trees, as well as the stewardship of personal seed stocks The remainder of the book is devoted to promoting the Paradise Garden philosophy beyond your own little slice of paradise and into the community, and teaching your children and future generations about these principals.
I picked up this book with much excitement due to my desire to start a "garden". This has always been an interest of mine from when I was young and being a homeowner now affords me this opportunity. But what I learned is more than simply how to "garden." I learned how to design thoughtful and logical arrangements for land and soil wherever I am, city or suburbia. I discovered techniques for efficiently and effectively using whatever I had and how to find whatever I needed. Moreover, I learned that one ought not work against nature's cycles, but rather harness them, plug into them, and witness possibilities that will amaze you. Like other Peak Oil related fare, this book will open your eyes, challenge your assumptions, and inspire you in untold ways. These principles are a must for a post-fossil fuel world.
To read the original review please visit www.peakoilresources.com.
The Inspired Economy
April 5, 2007
Not every person should run out and become a backyard farmer, but Flores' "Food Not Lawns" presents practical reasons and methods to use your backyard for both recreation and production. Consider the following statistic, “58 million Americans spend approximately thirty billion dollars every year to maintain more than twenty-three million acres of lawns . . .. the same-sized plot of land could still have a small lawn for recreation and produce all the vegetables needed to feed a family of six. The lawns in the United States consume around 270 billion gallons of water a week – enough to water eighty-one million acres of organic vegetables, all summer long.”
See the review here.
by Kristin Underwood, San Diego, CA
January 4, 2007
Have you ever wondered why people today starve when there is so much food that goes to waste? Have you ever considered where your food comes from, and tried growing your own food instead of hitting up the grocery store every week? Imagine with me that instead of using our front lawns for a decorative, thruway to your house, with no other purpose or function but to look pretty, we use our front lawns to grow food to feed our families. H.C. Flores in Food Not Lawns sets out to show you how to do just that and how we can have it all, both the yard for recreation and for production.
Consider a few staggering stats about the average American lawn: “58 million Americans spend approximately thirty billion dollars every year to maintain more than twenty-three million acres of lawns….the same-sized plot of land could still have a small lawn for recreation and produce all the vegetables needed to feed a family of six. The lawns in the United States consume around 270 billion gallons of water a week – enough to water eighty-one million acres of organic vegetables, all summer long.” When you put it like that, it seems like we should all turn our lawns into farms but Flores advocates garden awareness, not that we all become farmers overnight.
Now wait just a minute, you might say, some US cities are not good for growing produce, say those in a desert, but the author has beat you to this, as she has tips for any, and I mean any, landscape and even those ‘problem’ lawns. At times the beginner may get lost among the horn manure suggestions (filling a cow horn with cow manure, burying it over the winter, and then mixing with water and sprinkling on a lawn for fertilizer) and the seed ball recipe (combining multiple seed types with clay into a ball as one way to re-vegetate an area), but don’t worry, book is more of a resource and not a straight novel and can be picked up as needed as reading it through all at once may be a bit daunting.
Dubbed ‘paradise gardening’, the author suggests we return the land to a more natural state, where we see the earth and food production with a more holistic and natural approach. The author challenges the reader to think about where resources for a garden come from, how to limit ones footprint while still having an abundant and satisfying garden and offers tips on getting children excited about gardening. As the debate rages on about local vs. organic local vs organic , and the 100 mile diet 100-mile diet , this author suggests that by cutting out a lot of the excess consumerism and really get back to the land we will begin to heal ourselves, both physically and mentally.
See the article here
How refreshing: a how-to-book gardening book motivated not by “what’s in it for me,” but rather by “what’s in it for us”—where us extends to friends, neighbors, co-workers,… and, ultimately, to all of humanity and beyond: to the totality of life on Earth. What a difference from the (many!) books that begin by assuming that people garden to impress (others or themselves), to escape (from most anything they don’t like), and/or to excel; (and thereby achieve at least local fame). Instead, Food Not Lawns assumes that we are all (make that ALL) in this (life) together, so that the ultimate reason for gardening is to benefit each other. We wholeheartedly agree!
There is another way in which this book differs markedly from many other “hands-on” garden guides: instead of promulgating page after page of “expert advice” on how to perform various tasks, Flores suggests higher-level strategies that can be adapted to suit particular readers’ specific situations and that might lead to novel approaches that work better than any rigidly formulated pronouncements that Flore s could have made. We heartily approve!
Perhaps reading between the lines, you’ve already guessed that Food Not lawns is a Permaculture book. (At least, that’s the main subject category listed in the Library of Congress catalog information given on the book’s title page.) Our previous experiences with Permaculture books have resulted in the following generalizations: such books tend to excel at providing abundant reasons why people should try to move away from industrial-scale food production, and they also tend to be filled with plenty of intriguing ideas about how to begin to make that move, but they generally contain very little documentation on the results of actually trying out those ideas in the real world. In other words, we’ve found no lock of (in many cases, brilliant) theorizing, yet few signs that the theorists are willing to test their brainchildren and report the results of testing in terms of objective data, with the proper controls. Food Not Lawns is much different, because Flores doesn’t seem to put all that much stock in theorizing in the first place, so that issues of testing pet ideas aren’t hugely important to her. Instead, the emphasis favors adaptability and being able to select from among many possible options depending on the needs and opportunities that arise. One Might call this approach “Permaculture without Dogma,” or at least with minimal dogma. To us, that is a huge improvement over emphasis on unsubstantiated dogma!
Another thing we like about Food Not Lawns is its author’s choice of audience, namely everyday folks, rather than those who are already convinced that environmental concerns are extremely important. Flores does an admirable job of convincing such people not only that they should want to make lifestyle changes that can lead to significant environmental benefits, but also that they will be able to make such changes. She inspires confidence in the face of the unknown—“Who, me, grow my own food in my front yard?”—not least by treating readers as equal partners in coming up with sustainable solutions for day-to-day problems of survival. Here is one Permaculture book focused clearly on users’ needs rather than grand theory: this is Permaculture all set to hit the streets of your town and make a big impact! We are enormously pleased to help spread the news about Food Not Lawns.
Midwest Book Review
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.
The Future is Insight Reviews: Food, Not Lawns
posted by Beo. December 01, 2006
Alright, since it will be 4 months until we know if the Supreme Court is pro humanity or pro Big Oil I figure we should move onto other items. The mail brought several presents today, by far the most interesting was air mailed from Chelsea Green Publishing and included their brand new release: Food, Not Lawns. This was also free of charge-have I mentioned how much I love these people?
I am only a chapter or so in, but first of all let's look at the subtitle. That about sums up what Mia and I view our missions here in our little hamlet to be, so suffice it to say that I am positively disposed to this book. But even in the first paragraph I was hooked. Here is the second sentence of the book:
"Gardening my seem like just a hobby to many people, but in fact growing food is one of the most radical things you can do: Those who control our food control our lives, and when we take that control back into our own hands, we empower ourselves toward autonomy, self reliance, and true freedom."
Amen Sister! And look at that punctuation-there are at least 4 or 5 commas in there! (now if she would only use more parantheticals...) The book will be interesting if for no other reason than Flores appears to have arrived at a very similar intellectual place as myself, but from the opposite end. I am coming into sustainable suburban communities from upper middle class Corporate America. Flores is a former Greenpeace Activist and I get the distinct impression that she has chained herself to a tree or two. Granted, I am only about 10% into her book, but it appears we have both come to the conclusion that many people want to live simpler lives: produce some food, use less chemicals, live better, more meaningful lives. And that they can do that in their own yards- in suburbia.
I can't think of a better book to found the Sustainability Library with. Thanks again Chelsea Green!
Review by Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL.
Library Journal Review Tearsheets for Nov 15, 2006
Gardening 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.
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
Submitted by kat on October 11, 2006 - 11:33am
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 hardship…food 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...
…The more serious about gardening I became, the more dubious lawns seemed…I 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.