What would you guess is the most irrigated crop in the United States?
Try turf grass. For a brief introduction to the problems with turf grass please take a few minutes to watch the following video: In summary, here are a few facts about lawns in America that you might find a bit discouraging: 1. There are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn. 2. To keep all the lawns in America well-watered takes 200 gallons of fresh (mostly potable) water per person per day. 3. The amount of pesticides used on American lawns is ten times the amount applied to American farmland.
Although this news may be shocking for some, the worst part about turf grass is something we've all known all along: Humans can't eat it!
All this week we've been talking in class about food insecurity throughout America and how farmers should start integrating more diversity into the crops they raise, but I'd like to stop and consider more of the ways we, as individuals, can help ease this problem as well. When faced with creating our own solutions to food insecurity, most people claim, "Well, I would grow my own food, but I just don't have the land." Even if you live in an apartment complex with zero yard of your own, this statement just simply is not true. There are many options available for you to do your part and grow at least some of your own food.
If you wanted to take this idea to the extreme, then I would go with this first option: Replace your entire lawn with your own vegetable and herb gardens! Now, I know this is a pretty extreme option requiring lots of time, patience, and energy, (much more than most of us would be willing to commit to something we are just going to end up killing anyways...) but it would solve a lot of problems we are facing in the United States by lower food costs, adding more natural, unprocessed foods into our diet, and decreasing the amount of gas used in transporting food.
That option not for you? What about replacing your grass with ground-cover (like clover or moss), ornamental grasses that don't require as much maintenance or mowing, all-native plants that naturally flourish in your area, or a small poteger?
This week I was able to take part first-hand in planting a new poteger that will continue to grow and provide herbs, fruits, and vegetables to its owners for years to come. A poteger is a kitchen garden that incorporate flowers, fruit, vegetables, and herbs (for a more detailed description go here). This type of garden cuts down on the surface area of grass in your yard, provides food for your own personal use, and is aesthetically pleasing.
If you happen to be one of those people without any yard-space of your own, try growing some simple potted plants like succulents, cacti, or herbs. Even if you can't eat what you choose to grow, your houseplants can still purify your air and increase the humidity of your indoor spaces. Since I also don't have my own lawn, just last week I did my own small part and planted some herbs by seed and even used biodegradable newspaper pots!
You see? Anyone can work to fight against food insecurity and the status quo of turf grass in America in their own small ways...so what are you doing?! Get out there and plant something! Just please, not grass.