“the process of turning unsustainable, resource-intensive lawns and otherwise underutilized green spaces into small food production sites”

Excerpted from Emily Helminen and Erik Assadourian:

“Industrial agriculture concentrates social power and exacerbates problems of food insecurity and poverty, whereas small-scale organic farming on an individual or community level can significantly distribute social power across communities all over the world. An approach like this is one we like to call “yardfarming” (a concept we’ve spent the last year advocating for through www.Yardfarmers.us).

Yardfarming is the process of turning unsustainable, resource-intensive lawns and otherwise underutilized green spaces into small food production sites, or yardfarms. In this regard, individuals would be contributing to their own sustenance with healthy, organic produce. When people grow their own food, they know exactly what does and does not go into the process. If they are educated in organic farming techniques, they will replace a portion of their diet with home-grown, sustainable, and healthy food. Yardfarming effectively changes the profit-driven motivation behind farming to an individual and community level motivation focused on gaining access to nutritious food. This is especially important in areas where access to fresh produce is difficult to come by. This approach to agriculture could combat the existence of food deserts across the world.

A yardfarming revolution (yardfarmers.us/why-yardfarm/our-vision/) could drastically mitigate the effects of climate change. In America alone, there are 40 million acres of turf grass (yardfarmers.us/why-yardfarm/) that could be converted into smallholder farms. The process of growing food right in one’s backyard removes many of the environmentally deleterious processes associated with our current industrial form of agriculture. Food would no longer have to be shipped thousands of miles but merely dozens of feet. The vast amounts of fossil fuel-intensive fertilizers that large monocropped farms need to function would be reduced when the demand for these crops declined as more families grew a portion of their own produce. The most environmentally degrading aspect of the current system, animal agriculture, could be reduced due to increased consumption of plant foods. With fresh fruits and vegetables readily accessible on a yardfarm, per capita meat consumption could potentially be decreased. Yardfarmers could also grow some of their own meat as part of their sustainable farms, thus reducing demand further.

In addition to removing harmful effects and processes associated with industrial agriculture, yardfarming would also start to slowly rebuild soils across the world. Healthy soils have huge potential for carbon sequestration. With small-scale (but widespread) yardfarms practicing organic farming concepts, soils would get healthier and be able to sequester more carbon with each passing growing season.

Compost is an essential component of building healthier soils. When people have their own yardfarms to tend to, there is greater incentive to start a compost bin or even a composting initiative in their community. The excessive amount of organic material that ends up in landfills, especially in industrial countries, would instead be put back into the earth. This effectively closes the current linear “farm to table to trash to landfill” path, and instead puts food waste back into the soil to create a healthier yardfarm for the next season.

Yardfarming spreads social power and gets individuals involved and invested in their own health and food production. It decreases and in some cases can reverse environmental degradation (for example not only by displacing industrially-produced foods but by redirecting some labor from the consumer economy (offering livelihoods in backyards rather than in cubicles).

Yardfarming creates a healing, closed-loop system between us and the planet. It removes the motivation for profit and replaces it with a motivation for health and nutrition. Yardfarming addresses all of the problems created with an industrial agriculture system and provides an effective approach to organic agriculture, especially in overdeveloped countries like the United States. Our unsustainable, suburban sprawling, environmentally degrading ways could instead be a nourishing landscape of small-scale, organic yardfarms—which in turn can offer local food security and resilience that we’ll certainly need in the warming century ahead.”

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