Edible Estates

A reading room and lecture series at Machine Project. Organized by Fritz Haeg
September 29th – October 29th

Schedule

10.05.06 / Thursday / 7 – 10pm / #01 OPENING RECEPTION including garden readings by Lesley Stern

10.08.06 / Sun. / noon – 2pm / #03 ENDLESS GARDENING! Phil Ross & Marina Mcdougall vists from San Francisco to tell us about The Garden of Forking Paths. Stephanie Rioux presents her worm composting unit.

10.15.06 / Sun. / 2 – 4pm / #04 VERY SLOW FOOD! Presentations and videos with Slow Food L.A. including a presentation by Lakewood Edible Estate owner Michael Foti

10.20.06 / Fri. / 7 – 9pm / #05 GARDEN POETRY!

10.22.06 / Sun. / 2 – 4pm / #06 MASTER GARDENERS UNITE! A presentation by Yvonne Savio, the director of the Los Angeles Master Gardening Program. We will also be joined by master gardeners, who will tell us their stories of teaching people how to grow their own food and spreading urban agriculture.

10.29.06 / Sun. / 2 – 4pm / #07 CLOSING RECEPTION & STORIES FROM THE FRONT LINE! Closing party & presentations by those who have embarked on similar front yard edible and vegetable landscaping endeavors including Robby Herbst, Louis Marchesano, Daniel Marlos, Melissa Thorne, Kimberly Varella.

Edible Estates is an attack on the American front lawn and everything it has come to represent.

Edible Estates reconciles issues of global food production and urbanized land use with the modest gesture of a domestic garden.

Edible Estates is an ongoing series of projects to replace the American front lawn with edible garden landscapes responsive to culture, climate, context and people.

Edible Estates is a practical food producing initiative, a place-responsive landscape design proposal, a scientific horticultural experiment, a conceptual land-art project, a defiant political statement, a community out-reach program and an act of radical gardening.

Our Lawn
Why do we dedicate so much land to a space with so little function that requires the consumption of so many precious resources and endless hours of maintenance while contaminating our air and water?

The American front lawn is almost entirely a symbolic gesture. Exactly what it represents has shifted from its ancestry in English estates to today’s endless suburban carpet of conformity. Originally manicured by grazing animals, an ornamental sweeping lawn would occupy otherwise valuable farmland surrounding a manor estate, demonstrating the owner’s wealth while keeping the production of his vegetable garden out of view. In this tradition, today’s American lawn has become the default surface for any defensible private space. An occasional lawn for recreation can be a delight, but most lawns are only occupied when they are being tended.

The lawn devours resources while it pollutes. It is maniacally groomed with mowers and trimmers powered by the 2 stroke motors responsible for much of our greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrocarbons from mowers react with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight to produce ozone. To eradicate invading plants it is drugged with pesticides which are then washed into our water supply with sprinklers and hoses dumping our increasingly rare fresh drinking resource down the gutter. Of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater and 23 have the ability to leach into groundwater sources. The lawn divides and isolates us. It is the buffer of anti-social no-mans-land that we wrap ourselves with, reinforcing the suburban alienation of our sprawling communities. The mono-culture of one plant species covering our neighborhoods from coast to coast celebrates puritanical homogeneity and mindless conformity. Lawns cover 30 million acres of the United States while 349 million acres are used for crops.

Our Food
Meanwhile at the grocery store we confront our food. Engineered fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic and styrofoam, cultivated not for taste, but for ease of transport, appearance and uniformity, then sprayed with chemicals to inhibit diseases and pests that thrive in an unbalanced ecosystem. Organic farming accounts for less than 1% of the United States agriculture output. The produce in the average American dinner is trucked 1,500 miles to get to the plate. We don’t know where our fruits and vegetables came from or who grew it. Perhaps we have even forgotten that plants were responsible for this mass-produced product we are consuming.

This detachment from the source of our food breeds a careless attitude towards our role as custodians of the land that feeds us. Perhaps we would reconsider what we put down the drain, on the ground and in the air if there was more direct evidence that we will ultimately ingest it.

The Edible Estates Initiative
Edible Estates proposes the replacement of the American lawn with a highly productive domestic edible landscape. Food grown in our front yards will connect us to the seasons, the organic cycles of the earth and our neighbors. The banal lifeless space of uniform grass in front of the house will be replaced with the chaotic abundance of bio-diversity. In becoming gardeners we will reconsider our connection to the land, what we take from it and what we put in it. Each yard will be a unique expression of its location and of the inhabitant and their desires. Valuable land will be put to work.

The Edible Estates project will be implemented in 9 cities in the United States over the next 3 years. An adventurous family in each town will offer their typical suburban front lawn as a working prototype for the region. They will dare to defy the sweeping continuity of their neighborhood’s green lined streets. Working together with the family and additional helpers the front lawn will be removed and replaced with an edible landscape. This highly productive garden will be designed to respond to the unique characteristics of the site, the needs and desires of the owner, the community and its history and especially the local climate and geography.

Each of the 9 regional prototype gardens will be sponsored by a local art institution and developed in partnership with a horticultural or agricultural research organization. Each garden will be planted in the spring and the first season’s growth will be documented and displayed as a public exhibition.

A booklet will be produced specifically for each town and distributed for free. It will communicate to residents how they may go about replacing their lawn with an Edible Estate. The booklet will include listings of local nurseries, fruits and vegetables that are recommended for the region, native plants that are edible, local businesses that may assist with the labor and maintenance, basic gardening principals and further reading resources. This information will be assembled with the help of local specialists and also be available on the internet.

With the modest gesture of reconsidering the use of our small individual private yards, Edible Estates takes on our relationship with our neighbors, the source of our food and our connection to the natural environment.

More information at the Edible Estates website

A nice article on Edible Estates in the NYTimes