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Dale Carson: Grow Food, Not Lawns!

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Everyone knows grass roots are tough and they spread like crazy. Right now, ironically, there is a grass roots movement called “grow food/not grass”. It sprang from a book of that name by H. C. Flores published in 2006 that begat many more books with similar messages. 

Growing food instead of lawns is a sensible way to supplement what you get or don’t get from your local farmer’s market or regular store. Some of these gardens that are a few years into it ( are gorgeous, blending herbs, flowers, vegetables, corn and other edibles in the mix. 

It takes knowledge, dedication and energy to handle that kind of lawn replacement. Start out small, and work your way up, if you want. In some places, neighborhoods plan together and share their bounty.

The concept of "Grow Food, Not Lawns" saves you money. When you think about the money you spend on fertilizers, mowing or mowing services in some areas, gas for the mower every couple of weeks, it just makes sense to change it into something that pays you back. I understand planting gardens has its time and physical constraints, especially for people who work long hours, parents and the handicapped. Perhaps start with a window box of lettuces and surprise yourself.

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As Native American people, I believe we try whenever possible to live sustainably. We know we have a responsibility to our children and tribal community as a whole to evoke the environmental values of our ancestors and those hopefully instilled in us through our upbringing. Always being aware of where our food comes from is very important. Organic is best; whether you buy it or grow it, it is still more nutritious. This is because organic farmers do not allow the use of carcinogenic chemicals or preservatives, or other pollutants. They use traditional methods of farming, composting, mulching, rotating crops, saving seeds, plus a number of time-honored ways of using the pure Earth we were entrusted. If some of us try to be careful and at least support the efforts of those who can adhere to ancient agricultural methods, we can make a dent in the toxic, agricultural profit-minded, industrial complex.

Unless you live in an “association” type of neighborhood where even putting a birdfeeder out is prohibited, you can still make a statement, large or small, that supports your belief in organic sustainable gardens. Flower boxes, large pots, or raised beds are enough to supplement your vegetable needs. Lettuces, spinach, kale, sunflowers, peppers, tomatoes are just a few suggestions. Some people add berry bushes and fruit trees. Once you start, I think you will be surprised by the support of your neighbors. When they are on board, you will make friends, educate one another and trade harvests while creating a local camaraderie.

To learn more, reach out to the Native American Farmers Association, Post Office Box 31267, Santa Fe, NM 87594. One of the largest established role models in this field is is White Earth Land Recovery Project in Minnesota; visit

Dale Carson (Abenaki) is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking, and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for over 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.