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How Can a Cascadian Achieve Independence from Big Ag? Eat Your Yard!

It seems like almost every day a helpful friend posts a new indictment of Big Agriculture on Facebook. Or a story hits the paper with surprise revelations about the food companies that you once thought were organic and sustainable, but that now turn out to be mere pawns of the same large, evil corporations that produce such horrors as Pop-Tarts and Drano. Or you find out that even your locally sourced, small farm produced rice is tainted with arsenic because it’s been grown in soil that is still holding on to the pesticides used decades ago.
It’s easy to trumpet the woes of the food industry and the atrocities of Monsanto, and sometimes there is a creepily sadistic pleasure in boldly ripping the veil of ignorance from a Standard American Diet eating acquaintance, but in the end we’re all often left feeling powerless in the face of Big Ag. We start wondering, is there anything out there that I CAN eat? The problem is so big, is there anything that I can actually DO?

The answer is staring you right in the face every day. Your yard: that postage stamp of green space that urban dwellers have protected with an almost religious zeal as their American Right for generations, that bit of property that is inherently useless but serves as a potent symbol of affluence within the middle class consciousness. Yeah, you know it, you’ve probably spent more sweaty hours coaxing it into that fine velvety golf-course texture than you care to imagine. But if you really want to throw off the yoke of Big Ag you need to give up that obsolete bit of the American Dream, dig up that grass, and Eat Your Yard.

In other words, instead of giving in to despair or spending all your time hunting down whatever corporate entity you feel is standing in for Satan these days, cut out the agricultural middle man and utilize your property to grow your own food. By picking up that shovel you can truly empower yourself to make your own decisions. Imagine it: you will know exactly what goes into your soil and what comes out of it. You will immediately decrease your carbon footprint, as most of the food you eat will only have to travel a few steps from the garden to your table. You will be able to choose varieties of plants that are best suited to your own bioregion, and if you are willing to take this seriously, you can help feed not only you and your family, but your neighborhood. Now that is what you call local autonomy.

“But I don’t get much sun on my property”, you might say, or “I live in an apartment and have no space for a garden at all”. Take this as an opportunity to partner with your community and spread the revolution! Talk to your neighbors and work to combine resources and share growing space. If you live in a very urban area or don’t know your neighbors well, Urban Garden Share is a great online resource for connecting gardeners with drive and know-how to home owners with property to share.  Consider creating a meetup group or posting on Craiglist to find other like-minded individuals willing to combine their efforts. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.

If money, time, or inexperience are barriers, there are many organizations and businesses that can help. Here are just a few to get you started:

The Just Garden Project , a program of Seattle Tilth, helps low-income families develop food gardens by providing both education and labor assistance.

Alley Cat Acres creates community-run farms in underutilized urban spaces.

City Fruit works in Seattle, neighborhood by neighborhood to help residential tree owners grow healthy fruit, to harvest and use what they can, and to share what they don’t need.

Our company, Cascadia Edible Landscapes  offers a unique Community Supported Plant Start program (CSPS) whereby subscribers can receive flats of seasonally locally grown vegetable starts for their gardens. CEL also assists homeowners and neighborhoods to design and build affordable edible landscapes and neighborhoods.

The options are there, the resources are there, you just need to reach out your hand. Cultivating a food garden is not just a hobby, it is a radical act of protest. So don’t support Big Ag by giving up, fight for your independence by taking charge of your own and your community’s nutrition!

by Cascadia Edible Landscapes