I have a dream. It’s not a new dream. My dream is to grow food in the city, in unexpected places and make a living doing it. However, my dream is more than that. I don’t want to just make a living. I want to make a change. So, I want to grow food in the city, support myself and be a force for transformation all at the same time. The only thing stopping me from living the dream is my own imagination.
According to NASA research, more acres are dedicated to lawns and turf grass than any other irrigated crop in the United States. That means more acreage is dedicated to the sod surrounding our homes than corn. People tend to pour more pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer on their little plots, than farmers. Then they over water to keep everything looking lush and green which washes all those chemicals down into the groundwater and out into the streets and sewers.
Hmmm… what if instead of wasting so many resources on something that just looks pretty, we used our lawns to grow things we could eat. Our soils would be healthier. We’d be doing less damage and we get fresh veggies out of the deal. It doesn’t get fresher than right in front of your house.
Some folks have taken this idea and turned it into a model for CSA production. Folks like Urban Patchwork in Austin, TX or other folks in Boulder, CO called Community Roots. My dream is to do this model of urban agriculture in East Waco where we have the largest food desert in our community. You basically run a lawn care service that grows veggies in people’s yards. In exchange for the use of land and water, residents get a share of what’s grown in their yard. This would get fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of people who do not have access to good food and would be subsidized by the wealthy suburbanites who participate in the CSA program.
Some people call my dream “social entrepreneurship.” I like to call it “subversive capitalism.” It’s redistribution of the wealth under the guise of free market capitalism.
It’s hard to strike a balance between making business sustainable/profitable and being socially responsible. People tend to err on one side or the other. My dream is to walk right down the middle and plow a third way that rethinks the whole system… all while staying dirty and growing goodness.