Take a look at your front lawn, or backyard for that matter. Is it like most North American residential properties, i.e. a carpet of immaculately kept grass punctuated by small islands of ornamental flower gardens?

In 2008, my family and I decided to abandon our front lawn in favour of growing our own food. At the same time, a local Kelowna resident, Curtis Stone, hatched a more ambitious plan: turn multiple, residential lawns into small-plot-intensive, urban farms (SPIN farms) and complete this process totally by bicycle.

Like Curtis, our family considered the financial and environmental costs of maintaining an outdated icon of the American Dream too heavy a burden? Toxic sprays, fertilizers and precious resources like water and time are a high price to pay for the idealized look of an urban pasture? 

Think about it. The average American spends $222 a year in lawn-care equipment and chemicals alone. That comes to $8.9 billion total a year in the US.1 Is this really the best way to preserve our health, environment and bank accounts?

In North America, we maintain over 190,000 sq km of lawn. This is more space than is reserved for growing crops like wheat, corn or tobacco. If you were to combine all the lawns in North America, it would equal the size of Newfoundland and New Brunswick combined (in the US—Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island).2

There is an alternative to this urban pastoral and it starts in your own backyard. It’s just a small matter of inspiration or considering what choices are available.

This documentary film examines the journey that Curtis is on in his goal to demonstrate that local food production can be achieved in a sustainable way in urban settings. Curtis is now taking his example and message about SPIN farming across Canada and the U.S.

Yes, change is possible, but it starts in our own backyard.

1. Robbins,  P.; Sharp, J. 2003. "The Lawn Chemical Economy and Its Discontents", Antipode, 35:5, 955-979.

2. American Savannah, Nature of Things, 2009.