Fritz Haeg on Edible Estates

Fritz Haeg on Edible Estates

June 6, 2012

Excerpt from the Preface to Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg, 2010

This book is a collection of illustrated stories of people’s experiences publicly growing food where they live. It documents the eight Edible Estates regional prototype gardens that I have planted since 2005 and, in most cases, it includes personal accounts from the gardeners themselves. Be advised that this is not a glossy volume of perfectly manicured aspirational gardens that you envy but can never hope to achieve yourself; nor is it a comprehensive how-to guide to growing your own food — there are plenty of resources of this type, including Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy, a contributor to this book. The garden stories presented here, with all of their challenges and rewards, are intended to reveal something about how we are living today and to offer you some inspiration to plant your own version of an Edible Estate.

By attacking the front lawn, an essential icon of the American Dream, my hope is to ignite a chain reaction of thoughts that question other antiquated conventions of home, street, neighborhood, city, and global networks that we take for granted. If we see that our neighbor’s typical lawn instead can be a beautiful food garden, perhaps we begin to look at the city around us with new eyes. The seemingly inevitable urban structures begin to unravel as we recognize that we have a choice about how we want to live and what we want to do with the places we have inherited from previous generations. No matter what has been handed to us, each of us should be given license to be an active part in the creation of the cities that we share, and in the process, our private land can be a public model for the world in which we would like to live.

Since this book was first published in 2008, I have traveled widely across the United States and Europe on invitations to talk about these garden experiences with everyone from urban engineers in London and architects in Anchorage to gardeners in Madison and college art students in Gainesville. Bridging audiences of activists, architects, artists, environmentalists, foodies, gardeners, landscape designers, urban planners, and typical homeowners is gratifying but can also be a challenge, since it is impossible to fully satisfy all of them with one book. Though each may be approaching the topics with a specific agenda, they all share a delight in gardens and an interest in examining alternatives to the direction in which we are headed as a society. It is with this spirit of a collective and common desire to explore other ways of living that I hope you will approach this book. It will inevitably not contain everything you are looking for, and perhaps it will leave you wanting more, but it also might invite you to take a second look out your front door, which is a start.