by Heather C. Flores
(Chelsea Green 2006)
Food Not Lawns is about a grassroots gardening organization that was started in Eugene, Oregon, by the Food Not Bombs community in a desire to focus on suburban land use issues. “Mowed grass,” the author says, “seems an arrogant, negligent indulgence.”
Author and permaculture instructor Heather C. Flores moves Into garden techniques and suggestions for a do-it-yourself lifestyle. The gardening sections are flavored with the group’s philosophy of utilizing wasted resources, for example by getting free seeds or growing food on vacant lots. Flores also discusses permaculture, as well as many more common gardening themes that can be found in other garden books.
Flores gives general advice in areas such as protesting and community meetings, reflecting the activist lifestyle the book promotes. She advocates things like quitting your job and riding a bike. One topic I find interesting and wish she would have addressed in more depth is the insular and homogeneous nature of anarchist-leaning groups like Food Not Bombs and, I assume by extension, Food Not Lawns. In order to really “turn a neighborhood into a community” as the book advocates, it seems you would need to break down some of the barriers between the youth culture of groups like Food Not Bombs and other members of the community who don’t share the same cultural allegiances.
I think this book might have worked better as a memoir than a general how-to book on gardening and do-It-yourself lifestyles. It would have been nice to hear more about the Food Not Lawns story and the activist community in Eugene where it started. But that narrative never really develops and, instead, we only get hints about some of the projects that Food Not Lawns was involved in, such as efforts to hold onto lots that had become community gardening spaces.
Addressing the lack of access to land by people who are interested in gardening and agriculture is a vital first step to any progress toward the kind of biodiversity and self-reliance that groups like Food Not Lawns envision. But it’s for that reason that I wish Flores had stuck more to her critique of land use and distribution as well as the ways that Food Not Lawns has addressed those issues in Eugene and elsewhere.
I think Flores has an important story to tell and an interesting perspective on urban agriculture. The book also includes an appendix with an extensive list of everything progressive in agriculture and biodiversity. Unfortunately a parcel of land is not included with the book, but you might find some useful tips on how to acquire one.
Reviewed by Brad Johnson
Heather is now as of Feb 2017 creating a kickstarter. Check out https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/foodnotlawns/naked-lady-soup-by-food-not-lawns-author-founder-h/pledge/new?clicked_reward=false&ref=direct