Roger Doiron: My subversive (garden) plot
A vegetable garden can do more than save you money -- it can save the world. In this talk, Roger Doiron shows how gardens can re-localize our food and feed our growing population.
Roger Doiron wants everyone to plant a garden. He’s the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, a network of home gardeners.
Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.
So, my name is Roger Doiron,
and I have a subversive plot.
It is so subversive, in fact,
that it has the potential
to radically alter the balance of power, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-5
not only in our own country,
but in the entire world.
Now I realize, I'm sounding --
a little bit like Dr. Evil now.
I understand that.
But trust me -- we have very,
very little in common. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-12
His plots are all about
destruction and secrecy, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-13
whereas my plots are about
creation and openness. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-14
In fact, my plot can only work
if I share it with as many
people as possible. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-16
So I'm going to share it with you now,
but you have to promise me
you're going to share it in turn. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-18
So here it is.
Huh. That's not so good, is it?
There's nothing particularly radical
or revolutionary about a patch of grass. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-21
What starts to get interesting
is when we turn it into this. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-22
Now, I would like to suggest to you all
that gardening is a subversive activity.
Think about this:
food is a form of energy. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-26
It's what our body runs on,
but it's also a form of power.
And when we encourage people
to grow some of their own food, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-29
we're encouraging them
to take power into their hands, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-30
power over their diet,
power over their health
and some power over their pocketbooks.
So I think that's quite subversive,
because we're also necessarily http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-34
talking about taking that power away
from someone else,
from other actors in society
that currently have power http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-37
over food and health.
You can think about
who those actors might be. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-39
I also look at gardening
as a sort of healthy gateway drug, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-40
you might say, to other forms
of food freedom. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-41
It's not long after you plant a garden
that you start to say, "Hey,
I need to start to learn how to cook." http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-43
"You know, I might want
to look into food preservation http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-45
or I might want to look up
where my local farmer's market http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-46
is located in my town."
Now the other thing, of course,
with planting a garden, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-48
especially a garden
in front of a white house http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-49
and on a sunny south lawn,
is you never know who you might influence.
Now, I'm not exactly sure
what my white house garden's influence http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-53
was on the First Lady's,
but I can tell you this:
she's had an enormous influence on me
since planting hers.
Now it hasn't been --
it hasn't been in the area of fashion.
I understand that she's just
in a completely different league there, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-61
and I'm not even trying to compete.
But she's really inspired me
to think much more boldly http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-63
about the role that I want to have
in the garden movement. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-64
And so this is sort of
what I'm aspiring to here. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-65
Now, pretty modest, right?
I like this picture.
I think it sort of captures me well,
not that I have any
divine connections whatsoever, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-70
but I like my facial expression there,
because, if I've got
a worried look on my face, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-72
it's not simply because I've got
20 pounds of squash over my head, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-73
but it's because I've got some
pretty heavy topics on my mind. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-74
And I want to share some of those
with you right now, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-75
starting off in the form of a very
short video I've produced for you, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-76
which is my best effort
to sum up the history of gastronomy http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-77
in about 15 seconds.
("Also sprach Zarathustra" plays)
So, here we are.
Now, that's a funny little clip,
but it'd be even funnier
if it weren't so tragic http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-84
and if it weren't so true.
The reality is that we are in the midst
of an obesity epidemic, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-86
and it's not simply
limited to our country. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-87
It's spreading around the world right now.
And in a sort of parallel universe,
we're also seeing
that hunger is on the rise. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-90
Over 900 million people
right now are affected by it. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-91
That's three times the population
of the United States. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-92
But at the same time,
world food prices are rising
and world population is rising
and is set to reach 10 billion people http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-95
by the end of the century.
Now, another thing about the population
is we know that it's increasing, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-97
but a lot of us don't realize
that it's also changing. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-98
There's a fundamental shift taking place.
As of 2007, we went from being
a primarily rural planet http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-100
to being a primarily urban one,
and that has implications
for how we're going to feed these people, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-102
how we're going to get the food
to the people in the cities. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-103
Now, I imagine that there are
some Stephen King fans http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-104
in the audience here,
and I'm one of them.
But I can tell you, I haven't read
anything scarier than this here, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-107
and that's this statistic:
in order to keep up
with the growing population, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-109
we're going to need to grow more food
over the course of the next 50 years http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-110
than we have grown over the course
of the past 10,000 years combined. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-111
What makes this even more challenging
is that we're going to need
to grow all this food with less, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-113
and when I say less,
I mean a number of things.
Less oil, for example.
Most reputable geologists believe
that we've already reached http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-117
peak oil production in the world.
Now, you might not think in terms
of oil and food as being linked, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-119
but there's a very strong link, in fact.
It takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy
in our highly industrialized food system
in order to produce
one calorie of food energy. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-123
We'll also need to grow
more food with less water. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-124
These three images come from three
very different parts of the planet, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-125
but they all tell the same story
of catastrophic drought. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-126
We'll also need to grow
more food with less farmland. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-127
Here, the pressures differ
from one place to the next. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-128
In the Global South,
we're seeing desertification, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-129
whereas in the north,
we're seeing suburban sprawl. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-130
We'll also have to grow more food
with less climate stability http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-131
and less genetic diversity.
Now, this is really important.
We need our genetic varieties
because they're a sort of insurance policy
against climate change. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-135
We heard earlier today
"not putting all of our eggs
in one basket." http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-137
Well, we shouldn't be doing
the same with our tomatoes, either. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-138
We're also going to need
to grow more food with less time. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-139
Now here, I'm not simply talking
about the ticking time bomb http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-140
that is the global population.
I'm talking about
the amount of time we all have http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-142
in order to put
a decent meal on the table. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-143
And that "31" figure there
is not something arbitrary. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-144
That's the average amount of time
the American family spends http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-145
preparing, eating and cleaning up
after meals per day. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-146
So somewhere in there, we're going
to need to also fit in growing food. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-148
And I think we do need to do that,
but that's also going to mean
that somewhere along the way, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-151
something's going to have to give.
So it sort of leaves us feeling like this.
It's time to leave town
or even perhaps leave planets. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-156
But where do we go?
Where do we go
when we only have one planet? http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-158
And where do we go
where the going gets tough? http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-159
Well, if we were to listen to a lot
of our political leaders over the years, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-160
we would simply go shopping.
Because we have this unwavering belief,
especially in American political culture,
that we can shop our way
out of just about any problem. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-165
But the reality is something different.
We're not going to solve
our food problems and our health problems http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-167
simply by switching from regular Coke
to some future green iteration thereof.
And although the large food companies
would like us to believe http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-170
that we can give our children
all of the vitamins, minerals http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-171
substances that they need http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-172
without even leaving
the chocolatey cereal aisle -- http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-173
the truth is something quite different.
Now, what's become
even more troublesome of late http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-176
is that even the foods
that ought to be healthy aren't always so, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-177
and we're starting to lose confidence
in our food system, I think. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-178
The bigger it becomes
and the more complex it becomes. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-179
And we've seen this time and time again.
This is an image
from the latest E. coli outbreak. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-181
In this case, it was in Europe,
and we think it was started
with bean sprouts, of all things. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-183
So we have this sort of
shopper's dilemma right now. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-184
We have all of these different foods --
30,000 foods in the average
big-box grocery store -- http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-186
but we have less confidence
in those foods, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-187
and we have less confidence in the actors
that are putting those foods
on the shelves. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-189
I think we need to redefine
what good food is. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-190
This is an interesting image
from Berlin, Germany, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-191
where somebody started planting
shopping carts and leaving them around. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-192
Those are potatoes, by the way.
But in addition to redefining
what good food is, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-194
I think we need to redefine
our living spaces. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-195
Instead of seeing this as a yard,
we need to think of it more
as like a full-service greengrocer. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-197
That's, in fact, my yard,
and that's how I look at it. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-198
That's what we transformed our yard into,
and I think a really key
message is this one: http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-200
gardens grow good food.
And when I say good food,
I mean a number of different things.
I mean food that is safe,
food that is healthy,
food that is absolutely gorgeous
Another important message is this one:
gardens grow healthy kids and families.
Those happen to be my two youngest sons,
and they look healthy
and they are healthy, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-211
and I think it has to do with the fact
that they grew up in gardens http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-212
and they know where good food comes from.
And in fact, they know how
to grow some of it themselves. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-214
But in the current economy,
I think it's key to get this message out, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-215
that gardens also grow
important economic savings for families. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-216
And you can pretty much
take my word on this one, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-217
because in addition to crunching
the vegetables a couple of years ago, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-218
my wife and I also crunched the numbers,
and we found out that at the end,
we had saved well over 2,000 dollars
by growing our own food. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-221
So you could be asking this question now:
If gardens grow all of these great things,
how do we grow more gardens? http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-223
That's, in fact, the question
that my organization, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-224
Kitchen Gardens International,
is both asking and answering.
And our answer is essentially this one:
we're going to need to leverage
the resources and power that we have, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-228
the gardens and gardeners that we have,
in order to grow and inspire even more.
And as I said before, you never know
who you might inspire. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-231
Now if this campaign was successful,
I think it wasn't simply because we had
a visionary First Lady http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-234
taking up residence at the White House --
that certainly was a major part of it --
and it wasn't simply because we had
some celebrity chefs and authors http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-237
saying this would be a good idea to do.
I think it was ultimately made possible
by the fact that there were
a lot of people who wanted it to happen. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-240
There was a movement that made it happen.
And my organization tried
to sort of channel some of that energy http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-242
of the movement
and direct it towards the White House.
And we had a lot of luck
in terms of getting our message
out there to the media. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-246
We had a petition on Facebook,
110,000 signatures. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-247
We had viral images and videos,
and we did crazy things like
symbolically putting the White House lawn http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-249
up for sale on eBay.
But we need to do even more,
and what we're trying to do
in my organization http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-252
is to connect people online,
but also to connect people in person.
This is an image from a little
holiday we invented http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-255
called "World Kitchen Garden Day."
It's at the end of August each year,
and it's just about bringing
people together in gardens http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-258
to learn from one another,
to experience a garden
as a community experience. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-260
We also need to grow
the next generation of gardeners, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-261
and we're doing that
in the United States and abroad. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-262
But there's still so much more
that needs to be done, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-263
and I think this slide sort of captures
where we need to go. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-264
We need a road map,
and I picked this slide for a reason.
We've got a bike garden on the left
and a map of the Netherlands on the right.
I was in the Netherlands early this year
and was absolutely amazed
by the amount of bikes on the road; http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-270
26 percent of all trips taken
in the Netherlands are by bicycle, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-271
and it's gotten me thinking:
How do we get that happening
in terms of food and gardens? http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-273
How would we get 26 percent of all produce
coming from backyard gardens? http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-274
That might sound like a lot,
because we're probably at about
two percent at the most right now. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-276
But if you take into consideration
that at the peak of the victory garden
movement last century, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-278
40 percent of all produce
was coming from gardens. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-279
We can get there again.
And I think this is a really good start.
The White House garden
is certainly very inspirational. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-282
That's actually sort of a snapshot
of what the garden looked like http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-283
when it was planted earlier this spring --
lots of diversity, lots of healthy crops.
However, this is not a good representation
of our federal agriculture policy.
If we were to take the model here,
the diagram of that particular garden, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-289
and sort of transpose it
onto our federal agriculture policy, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-290
we'd get this:
billions of billions of dollars
going to support http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-292
just a handful of commodity crops
with just that tiny little bit at the top
for fruits and vegetables. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-294
This is scandalous. This is scandalous.
We need to do something about this.
I think one place we could start
is we could look at the tax code. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-297
We're already using the tax code
to encourage green transport http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-298
and green shelter.
Why not green food?
We're in the midst now of talking
about another stimulus package. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-301
Why not a garden stimulus package?
In terms of other things
that we need to be doing, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-305
we need to move down to the local level
and we need to make sure
that gardens are legal. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-307
This is an illegal garden.
At least it was. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-308
It's from Michigan earlier this year.
It was planted by a woman,
a mother of four, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-310
and she nearly faced
a 93-day jail sentence http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-311
because she planted it in her front yard.
We still have laws from the 20th century.
We need to bring our codes up
to the realities that we are facing now. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-314
We need to figure out also
new ways of getting people into gardens, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-315
people who don't have yards.
I think we also need to set
garden entrepreneurism free, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-317
and I'm happy to say, as a Mainer,
that we are leading the way in this area.
Earlier this year, a number of Maine towns
passed local food sovereignty laws
that allow town residents
to not only grow food http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-322
where they want to grow it
but to also sell it
the way they want to sell it http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-324
and to the people they want to sell it to.
I think that's an incentive.
There are a lot of gardeners out there
that would be interested in scaling up
their production if they could, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-328
if they had a financial incentive.
I also think that we need to examine
the composition of the movement right now.
If the movement were a 1960s beach flick,
it would be "Where The Boys Aren't."
So I'm going to take you to task, guys.
It's not right and it's not fair
that the burden of this responsibility -- http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-337
feeding our country and the world --
should be with the women.
And I'm going to challenge the women
to come up with really clever,
creative ways of getting guys http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-343
into the gardens, too.
Perhaps wearing a bathing suit?
But beyond that, I think we need
to reexamine the infrastructure http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-348
that we have in place for gardens.
I think we need to create
new infrastructure. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-350
And this is one of the things
my organization is working on right now, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-351
sort of a local communications
infrastructure, very place-based, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-352
that allows people in the same area
to connect with one another http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-353
and to help each other out.
I think we're lacking this
at the moment -- http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-355
but we can do it.
The technology is certainly there.
In addition to that, I think we need
another type of infrastructure. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-359
It would be good if we could
all get together. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-360
I think if we've learned anything
through the TED experience, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-361
it's that there is power
when we bring people together, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-362
and I think we need to bring people
together at the local level as well. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-363
And I think we can take some inspiration
from a previous movement, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-364
which was the grange movement,
a rural movement which brought farmers
together in a single building http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-366
to meet and to recreate
and learn how to become better farmers. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-367
I think we need a network
of suburban granges now.
I think one of the last
things that we need http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-370
is to not lose the fun of food.
Food is at its best when it's delicious
but shared as part of a community, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-372
and I think that gardens can get
some of that community vibe back as well. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-373
So I'm going to leave with one last video,
and I'm going to revisit the short video
that I showed you before, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-375
but I'm going to suggest
an alternative ending. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-376
And I think this ending
is well within our reach, http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-377
but it's really going to require
that we all pull together. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-378
So here's the new history of gastronomy.
("Also sprach Zarathustra" plays)
(Applause and cheers)
Thank you very much.
Thank you all. Thank you. http://e-vid.net/v/en/1306-383 ▲Back to top About the Speaker: Roger Doiron
Roger Doiron wants everyone to plant a garden. He’s the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, a network of home gardeners.
Why you should listen
Roger Doiron is dedicated to helping individuals grow their own food. He is the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International -- a network of 20,000 individuals in 100 countries. In 2008, he started the "Eat the View" campaign, a successful bid to get the White House to plant a kitchen garden--which was planted (by none other the First Lady) in March, 2009.
More profile about the speaker Roger Doiron | Speaker | TED.com The original video on TED.com: