Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Food Not Lawns

Sunday, March 11, 2012

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I attended the first session in a 4-week long class titled "Food Not Lawns" on Wednesday night and I brought back a ton of interesting info that I wanted to share with you.

First, a note about Food Not Lawns.  This isn't just the title of a class here in KC.  Food Not Lawns is an organization based on a book by the same name that was written by Heather C. Flores  (available from Amazon here).  The idea is that we should get away from trucking our food all over the place, eat local, and grow our own food instead of maintaining these huge lawn spaces around our homes.  There are chapters of FNL all over the place and, if you're wondering if there is one close to you, you can find out on their website.

The class started off with what I would call marketing regarding why you should grow your own food, why sustainability is important, how the world is overpopulated, peak oil, etc.  There was some discussion of the politics of some of those topics (as you can imagine!) and I found myself being a little turned off by the mere mention of it.  Gardening for me is a relaxing hobby and I prefer that it not be muddied by something as stressful for politics.  I guess, in my mind, gardening has its place and politics has its place and ne'er the twain shall meet! 

Anyway, the left side of my brain was kept busy analyzing some of the statistics they were throwing out during the first hour of the class.  Did you know the following?

  • The biggest crop in the U.S. is grass?  23 million acres vs. corn at a distant second with 18 million acres
  • We spend $30 BILLION per year to water, fertilize, and maintain all that grass.  That's about $517 for 1/3 an acre per family, which is enough space to grow enough veggies for a family of 6
  • Lawns use 270 BILLION gallons of water a week during the summer.  That's enough to water 81 million acres of organic veggies all summer long.
  • Lawns use 10 times as many chemicals as industrial farmland.
  • 1 calorie of food takes 10 calories of petroleum to produce it and get it to your table
  • Americans get 90% of their food from a supermarket
  • "Fresh" produce travels an average of 1500 miles before its stocked in the store
  • Processed food now accounts for 75% of all food sales globally

Some of those are pretty astounding, no?  During World War II, Victory Gardens accounted for more than 41% of the food consumed by Americans.  So what happened to us?  We became a nation of industrialized farming, huge population growth, the "I want it now" society.  If we want fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter, then we MUST have them and we're willing to pay the price (both economically and environmentally) to do that.  And somehow we turned away from fresh veggies and toward all the nutritionless, empty calorie processed food market.  It's no wonder we have an obesity problem!

The second hour of the class centered on no-till farming, permaculture and some community gardening projects around Kansas City.   These folks are growing subterranean clover (never heard of it!) and then planting their garden right into that clover.  Apparently, it's called subterranean because the flowers turn downwards and actually grow into the soil.  They are great injectors of nitrogen into your soil, so this would be a good cover crop if your soil is nitrogen deficient.  You can also use coffee grounds as well. 

One last tip:  if you're in search for some crops that will grow well in your somewhat shady backyard, try kale, chard, or beets.  They all grow well in the shade.
I'll sign off with some more of those gorgeous vintage Victory Garden posters.  The first one is my absolute favorite, but I love them all.  Hope you enjoy!


  1. That's some pretty amazing facts about grass. The only reason I can see to grow grass in the yard is because everyone else does it. I wouldn't have a blade of grass anywhere near the house if I could get my wife to agree to it.

  2. Tony: Apparently the sprawling American lawn as we know it was imported. The gentrified class fell in love with the sprawling lawns and gardens in Europe and wanted to "keep up with the Joneses". And we've been doing it ever since!

    Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll hurry back!


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