“Cultivate Your Garden,” is Edible Estates’ Thrust

Event: Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn
Location: Celeste Bartos Forum, 03.07.08
Speakers: Fritz Haeg — Principal, Fritz Haeg Studio & Project Creator, “Edible Estates”; Peter Sellars — Theater Director; Dolores Hayden — Author & Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies, Yale University; Frederick Kaufman — Author, “A Short History of the American Stomach”; Shamim Momin — Associate Curator, Whitney Museum, Branch Director and Curator, Whitney Museum at Altria, & Curator, 2008 Whitney Biennial
Organizer: The New York Public Library; Metropolis Books

Edible Estates

After witnessing the political polarization of the 2004 Presidential election, designer Fritz Haeg sought to unify people through that well-known common space — their front lawns. Since a majority of suburban-dwelling Americans have front lawns, which Haeg sees as vast spaces that isolate people from their communities, he began transforming them into edible, organic gardens. Now, he hopes that the Edible Estates project will replenish links connecting neighbors, resources, and food.

The predecessors to Edible Estates are the Victory Gardens of WWI and WWII; but where the wartime harvests were meant to relieve the pressure on the national food supply and inspire patriotism, Edible Estates adopts an agenda of “edible activism.” Responding to current environmental crises, Haeg’s gardens not only make landscapes more sustainable, but also make visible the labor behind food production — a process from which typical Americans have largely been removed.

Placing garden ecology in the boundary between house and street exposes homeowners to the actions of those around them. However, Haeg believes the project will also encourage civility and respect among neighbors. It is a way to re-imagine what it means to share resources and ideas, making public gestures in private spaces. The barren American front lawn, he hopes, will be replaced with lush gardens that echo sustainability and civic spirit (and a good meal).