Coalition Report: Grow Your Eco-Revolution

by Kathleen Logan Smith
Director of Environmental Policy Coalition For The Environment

Nature has transformative powers. Sprouting cucumbers, blooming squashes, and sweet ripe tomatoes transform kids into veggie-lovers, neighbors into friends, and neighborhoods into communities while building healthy bodies, healthy soil, healthier economies, and stronger ecosystems. Growing food exemplifies the wisdom of taking care of oneself and the environment, and nourishing community. Gardens achieve all of those goals.

Communities that need healing benefit in numerous ways from growing food. One of the most recent inspirational stories can be seen in Ron Finley’s Ted Talk about Guerilla Gardening in south LA. Finley’s talk on “gangsta gardening” has received nearly half a million views on YouTube since it was posted in March. In an urban food desert Mr. Finley has inspired a community to grow its own healthy food. He describes his work transforming 7 foot easements into attractive food plots as “eco-lutionary.” St. Louis has its own community of people advancing healthy, local food on urban lots, in window sills, front yards and road sides.

Whether you view growing food as an act of nurturing or of defiance, your options are huge. Plant a small potted garden, join a community garden, or convert your lawn to a garden. The St. Louis Metro hosts a vibrant local food scene with gardeners happy to share advice and often seeds. You will be taking an important stand against processed, industrial food, destructive farm pollution, patented seeds, and dietary diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. You’ll become more attuned to the cycles of nature, to your ecosystem, and your food. And of course, you’ll eat the fruits of your labor.
For more inspiration, plan your trip to the Baker Creek Spring Harvest Festival set for May 5-6 this year in Mansfield, Missouri. Join thousands of growers, activists, artists, musicians, crafters, and a slate of informative speakers while your buy heirloom vegetable starts and home-baked goodies. http://rareseeds.com/spring-planting-festival/

You can also help transform the nation’s food policy by encouraging Congress to pass a Farm Bill this year that puts soil health and land stewardship front and center. The current market with record prices for corn and soybeans has skewed production toward those high-paying commodities and driven the conversion of unsuitable marginal lands under the plow as farmers seek more acres. Native prairie ecosystems and wetlands fall victim when prices are high. Amidst the market pressures to cultivate more and more marginal land, Farm Bill conservation programs that offer some incentives to protect soil and water quality have been cut repeatedly, while crop insurance programs assure farmers of income even when marginal lands produce predictably marginal or losing yields. As a result, the bulk of the incentives are skewed toward destruction. America loses ecosystems that infiltrate water, build soil health, support wildlife, and reduce pollution and taxpayers pay more to subsidize escalating crop insurance costs. Frankly we’ve seen the consequence of these scenarios before and we called it the Dust Bowl. Part of the solution is re-establishing the link between conservation standards and crop insurance subsidies in the Farm Bill, while reaffirming measures that prohibit subsidies on converted prairie and wetlands. The other part of the solution is for all of us to buy food from farmers we know, to rebuild local food markets, to enforce laws against monopolies, and learn more about our food and farmers.

You can start by planting a seed. Join the Missouri Coalition for the Environment at www.moenviron.org. Happy Earth Day!