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My friend Gerald’s vegetable garden. God, what’s next? Cannibalism?

Allison Arieff is one of my favorite New York Times bloggers. The founding editor of Dwell–a magazine so stylish and committed to its subject that I read it regularly even though I am not interested in modern design–she’s always worth a listen on the subject of our American landscape.

Yesterday, she once again considered the future of the American suburbs in the wake of the housing bust and half-finished and abandoned homes in exurban developments.  Arieff points out…

If some of the readers of my last post
have their way, suburbia could eventually evolve into something
straight out of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel “The Road,”
where a desolate, polluted land is dotted with abandoned homes and
buildings that have been stripped of all valuable parts, and
lawlessness (and cannibalism) rules the streets.

Personally, I wouldn’t wish such a fate on the railroad suburbs.  But McMansion-stuffed Upper Saddle River, NJ, where I grew up?  I don’t know how sorry I’d be.

What struck me, however, was not Arieff’s post, but the thoughts of a guy named Dan T:

‘The Road’ is a scary book and I hope it doesn’t come to that. That
said, I think we are seeing devolution as people lose their jobs and
more of my neighbors are growing their own food.

Devolving?  Is that what we’re doing when we plant tomatoes? 

Seriously, this is how most of America views growing a little food in the backyard–as a return to some nasty, medieval way of being.  Most of our neighbors just don’t comprehend that growing food is one of life’s great pleasures, particularly in a hobby garden where nobody starves if the potatoes rot in the ground one year.

Since I love my vegetable garden, I prefer the term “europeanization” to “devolution.”  Dan T, if you are seeing more backyard farming in your suburban neighborhood, please consider the possibility that you are actually seeing America reach new heights of civilization, a post-Neanderthal stage at which our souls and brains are finally large enough to allow us to appreciate the incredible beauty of kales and cabbages and the unbelievable flavor of even the humblest onion, if you cook it right out of the ground.

But really, all of us who know that it’s lovely to grow food, what are we going to do to get rid of this general impression here in our great nation that gardening is primitive and unlovely, something that only desperation can justify?

Posted by

Michele Owens
on February 5, 2009 at 1:39 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.


  1. I noticed that post, too. More gardeners need to speak up in public about the joys of growing our own food. Today, I’ll be recording some more podcasts for Jacksonville’s paper and as usual one of my topics will be growing veggies. Newspapers are dying for content–couldn’t more of us help out?

  2. Well said. I grow veggies for the pleasure of the food. Raleigh sits in the heart of our State’s Farmers Market. I support it regularly; but this is not substitute to noshing on a matter from the vine.

  3. I’m not sure who these people are who think home food gardens are a sign of devolution…All I hear from people about my efforts is praise, admiration, and many many thanks when I’m willing to share.

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