The Future of Neighborhood Food Independence
'Grow Food, Not Lawns' adorns the t-shirt of Linda Jackson, owner of Nature's Harvest Organic Farm in Lake Orion, Michigan. As mastermind of her Urban Permaculture Garden, it's clear these words are a lifestyle.
Linda's resume is the blueprint for a green thumb. Among her credentials: 31 years teaching experience, Master Gardener, Board Member of the Michigan Organic Farm Food Alliance, Co-Organizer of the Oakland County Permaculture Meetup, and Michigan Horticulture Teacher of the Year, just to name a few. “(The urban garden) is not work to me”, says Jackson over a cup of her tasty lavender lemonade, “It's my gym, therapy, vitamin D, and meditation." It also provides a learning experience for the children in the neighborhood as they volunteer to help Linda in the garden. This urban farm not only feeds the stomach of the community but also the minds, especially of the young. Linda's garden is creating a ripple effect by getting kids to connect with their food, a very important lesson in today's world where food is prepackaged in a factory, often filled with sugar and chemical additives.
“Oh, I'm really a wild child”, admits Linda after describing her adventures joyfully foraging through forests and the exotic places she has traveled and lived. For 30 years she tended to her 10 acre farm with ample room to spread her wings and walk in the woods. A major life change meant a move to the city in the fall of 2014. With 10 acres reduced to a 50 x 50 foot growing plot, Linda seized on the opportunity to build a model for sustainability in a suburban setting.
Permaculture, according to Bill Mollinson, is a “philosophy of working with, rather than against, nature”. Traditional lawns work against nature, requiring herbicides, pesticides, and frequent mowing. A permaculture urban garden works with nature, creating an edible landscape that produces healthy nutritious food while building families and communities. Linda coexists with nature by employing techniques like creating natural predator and pest barriers with dog hair and alliums (garlic and onion) and using vinegar as a natural herbicide.
The first growing season has been successful, in part, Linda says, “due to the rain." According to Linda, “You have to pick it every week to invigorate it to grow”. And grow it does; this week's harvest of kale, arugula, spinach, chard and lettuces has more than filled the large refrigerator in preparation for this week's farmer's market. Looking at the bounty, one can imagine how just 1 or 2 plots this size, 50ft x 50ft, could easily provide delicious food for an entire neighborhood. With severe drought in California, the state which provides nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, it's in our own best interest to grow our own food to avoid the pinch at the grocery store if and when food prices increase and/or whole foods become increasingly difficult to source.
The $2000 conversion cost of Linda's 50x50 plot from lawn to garden included $600 to remove a large tree shading the entire front yard. The wood chips from the tree were used in the garden. The upfront cost to transform a lawn may seem high before considering that growing your own food will lower your grocery bill, save money on fuel and lawn care products, and work with nature. Canceling your gym membership may provide added savings. Consider this: Linda lost 70 pounds in under 2 years by living a whole foods plant based lifestyle!
If you are unable to convert your own lawn to a garden, maybe you can pool funds and resources and do it at a willing friend or relative's property. Otherwise, just visit Linda at the Clarkston Area Farmer's Market Saturdays thru October. Grab a piece of her lemon shortbread cookies, sip a glass of her lavender lemonade, and buy whatever produce is on her table. Then pick her brain for ideas to convert your lawn to an urban permaculture garden. Your entire neighborhood may thank you!
Your Plant Based Forks on the Road,
Matt & Erica, the Wandering Food Pharm
Matt & Erica are Plant Based Advocates, FoodTerventionists, & Writers. Always seeking new adventures, they encourage your suggestions on where to wander next! Email if you know of a Plant Based farm, festival, or business that deserves a visit!