Decentralizing, 'Resolarizing' Our Food Systems

Wartime urban gardening and the Obama's White House vegetable garden should be our inspiration in our efforts to wean our food systems off of industrial-scale agriculture, writes Michael Pollan, author of "In Defense of Food."
April 27, 2009, 9am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama broke ground for a new vegetable garden on the South lawn of the White House. It's the first time food will be grown at the President's residence since Eleanor Roosevelt planted her Victory Garden during World War II. Back then, as part of the war effort, the government rationed many foods and the shortage of labor and transportation fuel made it difficult for farmers to harvest and deliver fruits and vegetables to market. The First Lady's Victory Garden set an example for the entire nation: they too could produce their own fruits and vegetables. Nearly 20 million Americans answered the call. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots, and even on city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different types of produce, and formed cooperatives--all in the name of patriotism.

By the time the war ended, home gardeners were producing 40 percent of the United States' produce. They aided the war effort by creating local food networks that provided much needed produce in their own communities, but their effect on the social fabric of the nation was greater still. Urban and suburban farmers were considered morale boosters who had found a great sense of empowerment through their own dedication to a common cause.

Today, home gardening is on the rise, but most Americans still know very little about where their food comes from...If we want to make significant progress in reducing global warming we will need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary solar energy."

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Published on Monday, April 20, 2009 in OnEarth
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