The ideal American lawn as “ecologically unproductive”

A description of a homesteader property in North Carolina explains why the lawn had to go:

Photo by Tina Nord on

When they bought the house, it was surrounded by a picturesque, but ecologically unproductive, lawn of green grass. Building out a homestead that uses available space for growing food almost always means disrupting the lawn, and McClelland and O’Neill dispatched theirs quickly.

The American lawn is often a symbol of social class. But, what if it not just an ornament or a testament to money and effort but is instead a clear suggestion that the property owners do not need to use their land for other uses? What if a green and well-kept lawn is not about presenting a particular verdant image but rather shows that the owner is so wealthy that they acquire their food – and other things they might acquire from the land – elsewhere?

American lawns could be devoted to native plants or covered in stones. They could also be used to grow food. Imagine even half of the lawn space in the United States used to grow food. How much could be produced? Could this help people eat healthier? Could being involved in gardening have positive individual and social outcomes?

Yet, the green lawn says, “I am not needed for food. I am here to look pretty.” Perhaps it is even a form of conspicuous consumption; it broadcasts that the owner can waste the lawn on green grass.

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