Support Your Library, Eat Your Lawn

On a very rainy Friday night last week in New York City, a large audience gathered at the main branch of the New York Public Library to find fresh vegetables (asparagus, lettuce, potatoes) weighing down programs on their seats. They had come for a taste of the affable Fritz Haeg, author of the new Metropolis Book Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, and his witty band of panelists for the Live from the NYPL discussion, “What is Wrong with an Edible Estate?”

For those of you who are wondering, “What is an edible estate?”—think front lawn farming that’s a garden, an art project, and a political statement. As these estates crop up around the U.S. —so far there are four with more in the works—it touches on issues including local food production, land use, and the forgotten art of neighborly interaction. Fritz said that he “wants to inspire people to reassert their opinions, so I choose places to do an Edible Estate where the lawn isolates people from communities. Whether a neighbor likes it or not they’ll still stop to ask what’s going on.”

This particular panel was ill-equipped to say what’s wrong with Fritz’s project, as the cross section of authors, curator, and educator on stage were universally enamored. Panelist Frederick Kaufman quoted the visionary educator Horace Mann saying that horticulture, even on the scale of a lawn, is the “emblem and augury of all refinement.” That statement might seem suspicious to neighbors who value a perfect lawn in a perfect suburban neighborhood. But for the artistically-inclined eco-enthusiast with an eye toward community building it’s delightful.

As panelist Peter Sellers exuberantly exclaimed to wide applause, “Like we learned in third grade with long division, it’s the task of the artist today to show your work. It’s not enough to just come up with something.” He added, “Every war must end. With Edible Estates the process of solving a problem creates a community.”

Fritz Haeg is a fun and dynamic speaker that is definitely worth catching. Keep a look out for upcoming events where you can catch him in the Metropolis Events section.

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Fritz Haeg + Frederick Kaufman

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(Photos by Peter Foley)

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