Pumpkin sept 16 I've always been food-obsessed. I've always known that "What's for dinner?" is life's most important question.  That's why I've been gardening for the last 18 years.

I used to be eccentric.  Now, I'm on-trend.  It's great to see so many attractive college-educated young farmers who've decided that food is worth devoting their lives to.  It's great to see my kids' public school–which used to dole out candy, cupcakes, and potato chips for every occasion–now allowing a vegetable garden on the school grounds. It's great to see The New York Times, which never had any idea what it was talking about when it came to Mother Nature, now running fun pieces week after week on subjects like bee-keeping and root-cellaring, which apparently are now rampant in the same Brooklyn neighborhoods where I used to dream about acquiring farmland.

But, as with every good thing, at a certain point, the riff-raff move in. Namely, the financial types.  Check out the appalling piece in this week's Fortune about the money people smelling opportunity in arable land: "Betting the Farm" by Brian O'Keefe.  The guy who's leasing huge amounts of cropland in the Sudan is particularly admirable. Is he worried about political risk?  Na. "They can't change the law on me because I've got the guns," he brags.  In other words, he has the right general in his back pocket.

Well, agribusiness is its own ugly thing.  But, if Fortune is correct and we're going from an average of over 1 acre of arable land per person worldwide in 1960 to just half an acre by 2030, the backyard vegetable garden assumes a new importance: Not only will it turn us all into geniuses in the kitchen, it will keep us from having to ask any of these obnoxious investors for anything.


  1. It is so much easier to just go out to the garden pick your dinner and then just start cooking.

    My problem is very limited time to do anything. Then I go to sleep reading cook books and gardening info wondering why I do not grow all 40 varieties of cultivated basils! All the THYME forgetting about the 30 varieties of herbs I already have in the back yard.

    Out of sight out of mind?

    The TROLL

  2. Obnoxious investors sounds about right, who needs them anyway? I’m very glad to have my own potager and it’s nice to know that now we kitchen gardeners are considered on-trend, although I’d like to think of myself as very avant garden.;-)

  3. Bad way to start my morning, obnoxious is not a bad enough word to describe these ‘investors’. Rape and pillage would be more to the point, they exploit land in so called underdeveloped countries without a thought for how those people are going to feed themselves. All they care about is money, more money than they can possibly use or need. Pillaging the local wealth of food, metals, oils or whatever, destroying the environment and contributing to climate change, to export overseas to countries that already have more than they need, definately not development for the benefit of local people. Greed, nothing but. I have just been reading ‘The Conquest of New Spain’ by Bernal Diaz, really nothing has changed.

  4. Wow. Those stats are the bitter pill I just swallowed with my morning coffee (that I did not grow myself).

    I’m with you — it’s great to have more and more people trying their hand at raising their own food. I hope this isn’t a fad but is really the beginning of a return to feeding ourselves. I hope homeowners manage to grow-their-own without hitting the box stores for all the ‘cides that they can use, license or not. I hope they take crop rotation and garden diversity seriously. I hope seed exchanges and heritage seed companies ride this trend. I’m optimistic but perhaps cautiously so. The future of yard-food intrigues me; the future of food in the factory frightens me.

  5. OH! What an ugly picture Fortune paints! I clutch my gardens to my chest, I would meet such types as these with my pellet gun in hand, and a bucket of rock salt. My wee eight acres now looks a mite bigger than it felt yesterday! Hurrah for the backyard gardener!


  6. I’m with you in that move from eccentricity to, um, centricity? Our dad, who came of age in the 40s and 50s, had a great saying: Man, that’s so far out, it’s in!

    My heart sinks when I hear about such money grabs. I supposed it’s survival of the fittest, taken to the “m”th degree: money.

  7. What a depressing, soulless article. Now I remember why I became a much happier person when I left agribusiness and went into academia.

  8. Oh. My. God. You have GOT to be kidding me:

    ” . . and the world blew up, that the farmland, while it might not make a return for two or three or four years, was going to be there down the road. Because in the end, people have to eat.”

    Is she on DRUGS? The world will blow up and there will be people left? Nuclear fallout, people, contaminates soil and water – two, three, four years? I don’t think so.

    If there is so much money to be invested in FARM land, then why do we need the organization Farm Aid? Because these investors don’t give a shite about anyone except themselves and that just makes me want to say – Ugh – while slapping my forehead and shaking my head in disbelief.

  9. I felt rather sick after reading that.
    I’m even happier now about the nut and berry bushes I added to my back yard this spring.(All the asparagus were sold out before I was ready for them though. Drat!)
    We are working on getting a community garden up and running by next spring as well.

  10. Odds are, the financial types will stuff up everything decent they can get their grubby little fingers on. They’re greedy. Like infant children, they have no concept of when enough is enough.

    My philosophy is to circumvent, subvert, and undermine them as often as possible using the best tactic available – growing my own food in my own backyard and distributing the surplus to neighbours and friends.

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