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Fleet Farming – The “Food Not Lawns” Movement

Did you know that 33% of Global Climate Change is being attributed to our food production systems? According to, “lawns are one of the largest sources of pollution in the US, with 40 million acres under cultivation, they absorb three million tons of chemical fertilizers and 30,000 tons of pesticides, and use 800 million gallons of gasoline for mowing each year?”

On Sunday, I took a short trip to the Clarence flea market. Along the way, I saw nothing but sprawling lawns, in a place that should be dedicated to anything but sprawling lawns. There was no countryside. There were no gardens. There was nothing but acres upon acres of freshly mowed lawn. It seemed that the bigger the lawn, and the more it was pristinely mowed, the more American the home owner. We have become a lawn crazy society. We even have lawns where no one is using the land for anything – it’s just there as a status symbol. Why are we not happy with what nature has bestowed upon us? Why do we feel the need to create unsustainable faux environments that must be mowed week after week? We are destroying natural ecosystems. We are mowing down the pollinators. And we are creating pollution in the process (see here).

What if we were to re-examine our ideals, to take into account our actual needs as a human race, and as a collective caretaker of our planet? One of the first orders of interest would be to re-think our ornamental lawns that, for the most part, are useless.

The idea of Fleet Farming was founded in Orlando, Florida (see here). According to, “In 2013, John Rife, owner of East End Market, introduced the world to his idea of Fleet Farming at The Hive Orlando, part of the IDEAS for US Foundation – a “think and do tank” where citizens can present their solutions for global challenges.”

Of course this is not a brand new idea, except maybe the part of scaling it. Micro farms have been around Buffalo and other cities for quite some time. But when was the last time that you saw someone convert a front lawn into a farm? Garden, yes… farm, probably not. Buffalo did gain some ground in a branch-movement when we welcomed Endless Orchard to come to town (see here). At the same time, this is just a drop in the bucket for a lawn obsessed nation.

I recently came across an apartment dweller on Summer Street that decided that he wanted to grow his own corn, and why not?

A lot of people will probably laugh at this, because it seems so absurd. Actually, the absurd thing is that this is not commonplace. For years, lawn chemical and fertilizer companies have drilled it into us that lawns are best. Like any other product, we ate it up, and never thought about the repercussions. And the lawn companies laughed the whole way to the bank. Now, we’re stuck trying to reverse a wrong. Will the lawn mower companies agree? No? Will they keep blasting their ads out there? Yes. Will be continue to eat it up like candy? Yes, but hopefully one person, and then another, will begin to wake up and smell the roses, and other plants as well.

Fleet Farming transforms unproductive, wasteful lawns into community-driven urban farm plots. Rather than traveling 1,500 miles from farm to plate, our produce is hyper-local. Everything we grow is sold at local farmers markets and restaurants within a 5 mile radius!

Buffalo needs to create “A Hive” just as Orlando has done. The Hive is a monthly think tank where members come up with solutions to environmental problems that they can actually tackle. Whether it’s building awareness campaigns, or actually getting hands dirty, we need to be participating in similar exercises.

Thankfully, Buffalo has made some incredible inroads in the urban farm movement. There are farms all over the West and East Sides, thanks to groups such as Grassroots Gardens, Farmer Pirates, Mass Ave Project, and others. Now, we need to take this movement directly to the citizens of Buffalo. It doesn’t mean that you are going to have to farm, but if you want to you can. Otherwise you can grow a flowering tree, wildflowers, indigenous plants… anything but the unnatural lawn.

Not interested in farming? Try planting a flowering tree, or bushes… as seen on Ashland Avenue

Of course the general population will never go for this because people have been brainwashed over the years to mow, mow, mow. There is hope however, that some people will see that this is not natural. If you need to have a lawn, but you understand this message, then maybe start by downsizing the lawn. At least you are starting somewhere, and doing your part to contribute to the small collective movement that is already underway.

It’s time that we start to think about what’s best for future generations, even if that means sacrificing something that has no real value… unless you’re a big fan of lawn bowling. If nothing else, simply take a look around and see what is truly natural, and what is not. You might begin to see ways that you can affect change, just by switching up your planting habits.

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Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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