Agriculture in the United States (and around the world) will face a number of challenges in the future, like rising energy costs, soil erosion and degradation, and simply a greater demand for food, because of a growing population.
In the "green" movement of the past several years, food has been a central subject of interest, thanks to the popularity of work by people like Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan. In the past year, following a spike in gas prices and a crippling recession, we've seen a renewed interest in small-scale agriculture and growing one's own food. Local magazines have written about this. The MacArthur Foundation gave Will Allen, an urban farmer, its prestigious "genius grant" for his work on a two-acre plot in Milwaukee. The New York Times has its own neophyte gardener -- a freelance writer in Minnesota who wants to get more productivity out of a vacant lot near his house and is marking his progress on a blog. Heck, even the White House is getting into the spirit, with its own kitchen garden.
We believe that this is a trend for the future. People will be using their yards to grow food, not just for pleasure, but out of necessity. After all, the whole notion of using so much land to grow grass -- a mostly useless horticultural product -- is a historical anomaly. Many of us here in the Forge have big, sunny yards. By giving over some part of our yards to grow tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, onions, herbs, and other foods we use in the kitchen every day, we're emulating people of the past (and, in many other countries, the present) who have used their land to support their living.
We have been here before: There was a great movement in yard gardens during another time of crisis -- World War II. The Victory Gardens, through which Americans supported the war effort and extended their rations, were a symbol of patriotism and American can-do. We can look back to that effort to find a way forward. Will you join us?