Let’s talk about lawns. You can probably look out the window and see one right now. I really don’t like lawns. They waste a lot of water. They displace native plants, birds, animals, and insects. They encourage people to dump massive amounts of chemicals into our waterways in the form of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. In terms of things we could easily change that would have a positive impact on our world, lawns have got to be near the top of the list.
Despite the fact that lawns are notoriously unhealthy for our planet, they are perfectly commonplace in every major city in the United States. According to a 2005 study funded by NASA, lawns occupy about 50,000 square miles in the lower 48 states of the US. To put things in perspective, this irrigated area is about the same size as the area that we irrigate for corn production. And it’s larger than the areas we irrigate for soybeans and wheat combined. Keeping our sprawling lawns watered year-round consumes a huge amount of water. The EPA estimates that landscape irrigation uses almost 9 billion gallons of water in the US, every single day. This just doesn’t make any sense.
The real kicker is that the area we give over to lawns is often the best area we could have used to grow food. When we talk about lawns, we’re usually talking about the sunniest and flattest spots on the property. And it’s wasted. Turf grass doesn’t feed anyone – not a soul. It doesn’t feed the birds. It doesn’t feed the bees or the butterflies. And it certainly doesn’t feed your family. So, the question has to be asked… why are we still doing this? I can’t even imagine a good answer to that question.
Justin Rohner is a friend of Marjory’s who is trying hard to change this. He has had a lot of success, and now he is asking for your help to take things to the next level.
Justin’s company Agriscaping Technologies started converting lawns into edible organic gardens in Phoenix, AZ back in 2010. After a couple of years, Agriscaping had several crews working throughout the Phoenix area. They were getting so much work that they had trouble keeping up. So they took their mission open source, and started certifying landscapers around the country to get involved. Last year the Arizona Republic (the big newspaper in Phoenix) named Justin as one of the top 35 entrepreneurs age 35 and younger.
That brings us to today. Having already converted hundreds of yards into edible organic gardens, and helping to push this change nationwide, Justin realized that there is a huge segment of the population that he still wasn’t reaching. The segment he was missing was the “do-it-yourselfers.” All of the people who maintain their own lawns and landscapes, do their own gardening, and generally don’t hire landscaping companies. He knew that these people had a lot of potential to help change our lawns into edible gardens, but he couldn’t reach them because they never picked up the phone to call a landscaper. The solution he dreamed up is a smart phone app called MyAgriscapePro – and now he’s trying to turn this dream into a reality.
The MyAgriscapePro app has the potential to help bring home grown food to the mainstream public. It puts the knowledge and experience of trained edible garden experts into the hands of the masses. The app will take the user’s zip code and generate recommendations about what plants will grow well in that user’s geographic area. It will take into consideration the USDA plant hardiness zone, the microclimates in the user’s yard, and the collective experience of expert edible gardeners from the surrounding area. It will provide recommendations about which plants should be planted in which areas, when the plants should be put in the ground, and how the plants should be watered and maintained.
To make this happen, Justin needs help. He’s a landscape guy, not a software guy. To pay for the project, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to pay for engineering and software development. If the project gets funded, he will be able to build the app. If the project doesn’t get funded, he won’t. But for us this really isn’t about the app, it’s about the thousands of lawns that can get converted over to edible gardens, and the billions of gallons of water that can be conserved.
As soon as we learned about this, our team agreed that we would get behind it and support it as much as we can. I should mention that we’re not making any money on this – we’re actually kicking in a chunk of money to help fund the project. And we hope that, if you can, you will help out too. If you have money to contribute, that’s great. If you don’t have money to contribute, you can help by spreading the word. Forward this article, post a link on your favorite social network, tell your gardening group, or just tell a friend. The Kickstarter campaign ends on July 12, 2015. Let’s do what we can to give this a chance.
There is a good video on the Kickstarter page, along with a lot of details about the project. You can use the boxes on the right-hand side of that page to contribute money. Or click the green button that says “Back this Project.” You can pledge $10, $25, or more. However you can contribute, your help will be greatly appreciated.