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Lawns, Agriculture, and Gardening-THE MATH

Kyle Chamberlain
Posts: 24
Location: Kettle Falls, WA
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“. . . every society that grows extensive lawns could produce all its food on the same area, using the same resources, and . . . world famine could be totally relieved if we devoted the same resources of lawn culture to food culture in poor areas." - Bill Mollison

I've long accepted the above statement as fact. But I know Bill Mollison did his math in the 1980's. Having been asked to prove this recently, I decided to do my own math with more recent numbers. It still adds up.

US acreage in lawns: 40 million (journal Environmental Management)
That area in square feet: over 1.7 trillion
The square foot value of garden: $2 per square foot (the National Gardening Association)
The worth of US lawn area converted to garden: over $3.4 trillion
Total worth of US agricultural crops in 2011: $172 billion (USDA)
USDA farm subsidies in 2005: $23 billion (Washington Post)
Cost of lawn care in the US: $5.7 billion (National Gardening Association)

In other words, the dollar value of the nation's lawns converted to garden, would be almost twenty times the dollar value of it's official agricultural crops. This is before farm subsidies, and disregards the dollar cost of lawns.

US gardens are already worth an estimated 21 billion dollars, and they achieve this on less than 500,000 acres.
US agriculture uses around 400,000,000 acres of crop land, and is worth about 150 billion dollars after subsidies. Therefore, on a per acre basis, garden is worth over 100 times more than agricultural land.

These complicated figures merely confirm what is easily observed. Gardening is what you do when you want to grow food, wheras farming is a way to make money, albiet a risky way. Broad scale grain crops have very low yields in comparison to garden staples like potatoes and parsnips. Agricultural land produces commodity crops (like field corn and wheat) which aren't valued as food unless highly processed. Gardens specialize in the crops which have the highest intrinsic value as food (like tomatoes, cherries, and carrots). The big numbers shouldn't suprise.
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