Eat Your Grass

Collicello GardensThe title of this article probably does not make a lot of sense…nor should it. Most of us, unless we are rabbits or worms or another type of critter, tend towards greens like kale, lettuce, cabbage, and spinach. Yet we all have to eat, and if even a part of the iconic suburban lawn is devoted to a garden, that productive space is usually a fraction of the total green space on any given city property.

After all, growing food is for farmers, right?

In fact, lawns provide a rich and ready opportunity for one to transition from a consumer to a producer. They offer expanses of varying extent in which fescue and other inedibles can be replaced with vegetables, fruits, herbs, and many other types of edible plants, year ’round and close to home.

Indeed, how much more local can food get???

However, the idea of growing food, not lawns is still quite foreign to many people. It seems strange to have food plants, not ornamental plants, in the front yard (or the back yard, for that matter). Despite growing recognition that disconnection from our food, and the industrialization of the food system, harm people, animals, and the environment, there are still barriers (mental, cultural, and legislative) that make growing your own food on your own (or your neighbor’s) property difficult…potentially even illegal.

An exciting local initiative to allow horticultural businesses, aka “business gardens,” to grow food in residential neighborhoods is currently making its way to City Council, which will hear and vote on the proposal on March 12, 2013. (For more information about the proposal, read the Old South High blog and the City’s site for the proposal). If passed, this proposal would amend the City’s Home Occupation Permit to allow for “business gardens” in residential areas, and add an ordinance covering business garden regulations.

Collicello Gardens, run by JMU students Sam Frere and Dan Warren, provided both the spark for this legislative effort cum social movement and an example of just how positive and beneficial urban horticulture can be. They have turned nearly every patch of their rented yard into garden space for vegetables, fruits, and herbs. They, like other projects in Harrisonburg such as New Community Project, are proving that growing food is not something for farmers in the country. Growing our own food is a right each of us has to produce more–whether that be food, community, or inspiration for our neighbors. So are YOU ready to grow your own, too??? Support the Business Garden Proposal on March 12, and come out to a community discussion on Urban Gardening on March 25 (see below).