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Posted on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 6 a.m.

How subversive is your garden?

By Jim and Janice Leach

I did not start to garden as a consciously subversive act. It's been a long time since we first dug up the grass and made a few vegetable beds, but I remember that some of my motivations were to grow some of our own food, to get outside more, and to "do something with the yard."

In his TEDx Talk, Roger Doiron refers to his garden as a "subversive plot." Puns aside, he makes the argument that people gain power from growing their own food — power over their diets, power of over their health and power over their pocketbooks.

Have you discovered TED talks videos? Their tagline is "remarkable talks by remarkable people," and they present speakers from all over the world passionately addressing important issues. It's like youtube made by people who are smart and motivated for people who want to think and learn.

In his talk, Doiron further argues that gardening is a "gateway drug" to other forms of "food freedom." People who learn to garden then become more interested in cooking and in their local farmers markets.

Doirin sees a place for kitchen gardens in a future that where, as a planet, we'll have to do more with less. Right now, we spend nine calories of fossil fuel to make one food calorie; that takes into account everything from the petroleum-based fertilizers to getting food to stores and then home.

That's a lot of energy, and energy that we're not guaranteed to have. In the future, it looks like we'll have more people to feed, but less land and less water.

His solution is that we use the "gardens and gardeners that we have to inspire and grow even more" of our own foods. He is the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit community of gardeners from more than 100 countries.

You can view his Tedxtalk here:

One doesn't have to agree with Doirin's politics or all of his points to see that changes are taking place in the our food systems.

I would not say that kitchen gardens alone are the answer to the food problems of the future. I would argue, however, that kitchen gardens are the answer to other questions, questions like:

How do we promote connections with nature?
How do we get kids interested in healthy foods?
How do we make better use of our yards than growing lawns?
Those are my topics, of course, for future Ted talks or garden blog posts.

Janice and Jim Leach tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last four years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 minute Garden website.