Subversive Food Plots–Then and Now

A Lesson Plan for Gardening in the Classroom in Alaska, by Jessica Mulvey, An Alaska Master Gardener


“And he gave it for his opinion, ‘that whoever could make
two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where
only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential
service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.’” -Jonathan Swift

A small kitchen garden. Photo by Heidi Rader.

Throughout history, food production has been a driving force
for change and a source of power. Power in the energy it gives our bodies;
power in the hands of those who control production; and now even power in the
form of biofuels. American history has seen many ‘food movements’ –  the traditional use of commons; the fraternal
& political Grange Movement; the empowering Victory Gardens of the 20th
century – all focused on the production of food. Roger Doiron, founder of the
nonprofit Kitchen Gardens International, says that, “Over the past 30 years,
we’ve seen food power become concentrated in fewer and fewer corporate hands.”
In a country like ours, whose government was designed in fear of power being
consolidated into fewer hands, it’s no wonder that the strains of public outcry
are being heard. Think back through history & look to the future – food
WAS, IS and ALWAYS WILL BE vital to our individual & national success.


Subject Area: Social Studies
Grade Level: 11-12
Ideal season for lesson: Any or post-WWII
in the US History curriculum.
Time to complete lesson: 2 class periods
Materials Required:

Paper clips 
Food For Thought Worksheet 
Internet access & digital projector “Global Grocer” Food Import Data from Food & Water Watch
Victory Garden Leaders Handbook – (particularly page 18)
Average Crop Yields, Planted Intensively Table
Per-Person Yearly Food Requirement Table
2006 USDA Food Pyramid Recommended Servings Table
Graph paper
Optional: Kitchen Garden Planner program (available for free 30day trial )

Student Learning Objectives:
At the end of this lesson, students will:

Have
improved understanding of historical agricultural & food movements.
Compare
food production/sources of the past 50 years to 1950 and earlier.
Interpret
data in tables.
Define
biodiversity.
Evaluate
their family’s nutritional needs.
Create
a Home Garden plan.

Learning Activities:

Day One

Initiation:
Pass out the Food For Thought Worksheet with a paper clip attached to each
student’s copy.  Ask students how much they think the paper clip weighs. The answer is approximately 1g or the same as an average raisin. Would they be surprised to know that in 2007 the United States imported 64 million pounds of raisins? That would equal about 29,029,911,680 paper clips! Transition to sharing the rest of the startling food facts on the Food For Thought worksheet. Ask students to take notes.
               
Lesson
Development:
1. After the discussion of the Food For Thought information,
you can also let students know that only
four huge companies now control over 75% of beef production
and fewer than ten agrochemical companies control 91% of the $31 Billion global
pesticide market. Today, however, we are only going to talk about foods that we
could produce in a household garden – our very own ‘Subversive Plot’.
2. If available, share the Tedx Talk of Roger Doiron on
Subversive Gardening (approximately 20 minutes)
3. Remind students of connections to prior learning in
American history – traditional use of common pasture lands in New England, the
Grange Movement of the mid-19th century, and the Victory Gardens of WWI and
WWII. Focus primarily on Victory Gardens. Develop the idea that, with
government support, American citizens produced 8 MILLION TONS of produce – 41%
of their needs, compared to the abysmal 2% that American gardens produce now
(from available statistics). Why the decrease? Encourage students to question why
the government does not promote self-sufficiency & household gardens more
actively. Prompt them to consider the agro industrial lobby and the issues that
arise from the consolidation of power. (Activate prior knowledge here as well –
consolidation of power in government.)
4. Hand out “Global Grocer” Food Import Data from Food &
Water Watch table. Ask students to take 2-3 minutes to review the table and
make a note/circle the three most surprising pieces of information. Ask
students to share what they were surprised to learn. Discuss as a class. Inform
students that according to The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002
(2002 Farm Bill), the 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act (2002 Appropriations),
and the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) amended the Agricultural
Marketing Act of 1946 (Act) to require retailers to notify their customers of
the country of origin of covered commodities. Covered commodities include
muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, chicken, goat, and pork; ground
beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat, and ground pork; wild and
farm-raised fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities; macadamia
nuts; pecans; ginseng; and peanuts. The term perishable agricultural commodity
means fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
Closure: Ask students to take the information they
have received about food imports and survey their kitchen at home to see where
their foods come from. (Perhaps offer incentive to the person who finds the
food product that has traveled furthest, or least?) Also, ask students to make
a list of items their family enjoys that might be grown in a household garden.
Rice grains at a Market in Laos. Photo by Heidi Rader.

Day Two

Initiation:
 
Ask students to share some of the
foods they found & discuss the results of their kitchen inventory.
Lesson
Development:
1. Pass out:

Victory Garden Leaders Handbook – (particularly page 18)
Average Crop Yields, Planted Intensively Table
Per-Person Yearly Food Requirement Table
2006 USDA Food Pyramid Recommended Servings
Table
Graph paper

Heidi Rader’s garden in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo By Heidi Rader.

2. Inform students that they are going to use the
information they gathered last night and the data within the following tables
to design a household garden. They are to keep in mind the nutritional needs
& preferences of their families and should be able to support their design
choices with information from the tables. (Optional – suggest that students can
work together in small groups to collaborate and make larger gardens or share
crops.) (Optional technology extension – Use the KGI garden planning program to
design the gardens.) Give students the remainder of the class period to work on
their designs. Check for understanding and progress. Give students time
reminders. If it seems like the class is working well, but slowly, consider
extending the assignment and allowing students to complete as homework or in
class the next day.

Closure: Ask students to quickly write down on a piece of paper : 1) the most interesting thing they learned in the past two days and 2) what they might do differently now that they possess this information.

Alaska Social Studies Standards:

A-2,4,5: 2) know that the interpretation of history may
change as new evidence is discovered; 4) understand that history relies on the
interpretation of evidence;5) understand that history is a narrative told in
many voices and expresses various perspectives of historical experience;
B-2: understand the people and the political, geographic,
economic, cultural, social, and environmental events that have shaped the
history of the state, the United States, and the world;
C-4: use historical perspective to solve problems, make
decisions, and understand other traditions.
D-3,4,5,6: 3) define a personal position on issues while
understanding the historical
aspects of the positions and roles assumed by others; 4)
recognize and demonstrate that various issues may require an understanding of different
positions, jobs, and personal roles depending on place, time, and context; 5)
base personal citizenship action on reasoned historical judgment with
recognition of responsibility for self and others; and 6) create new approaches
to issues by incorporating history with other disciplines, including economics,
geography, literature, the arts, science, and technology.

Bibliography:

Kitchen Gardeners International – Roger Doiron’s TedxTalk on
“Subversive Plots”
Food For Thought
64 million pounds
1.7 Billion pounds
30,000
1 Billion
10:1
90 days
30 minutes/day
$9,630/year
8 million tons
Food For Thought
Teacher’s Copy
64 million pounds
The United States imported 64 million pounds of raisins in
2007. Each raisin weighs approximately as much as a paperclip. From 1993 – 2007
the quantity of imported raisins increase 330%[1].
1.7 Billion pounds
In 2007, 1.7 Billion pounds of processed tomatoes were
imported. [2]
That equals roughly 771,107 metric tons or 8 Nimitz class aircraft carriers (@97,000
metric tons each). Since the tomatoes are processed they are exempt from COOL –
Country of Origin Labeling.
30,000
“In the average grocery store, a shopper has access to nearly
30,000 products. The majority of these are produced by very large companies,
often with help from their high-ranking regulatory friends.”[3]
1 Billion
“According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture
Organization, the number of hungry people in the world stands at nearly 1
Billion.”[4]
10:1
“Professor David Pimentel, a food & energy researcher at
Cornell University, estimates that the US burns 10 calories of fossil fuel for
every calorie of food energy produced. If the entire world were to eat in the
same energy-hungry way as the US, humanity would exhaust all known global fuel
reserves in just over 7 years.”[5]
90 days
“In 2011, a Detroit-area mother faced a possible 90-day jail
sentence for planting a vegetable garden in her front yard. Although gardening
may be socially subversive in the context of today’s food system, it shouldn’t
be against the law.”[6]
30 minutes/day
“The American family averages about 30 minutes a day for
cooking & cleanup.”[7]
$9,630/year
“…the cost of feeding a family of 3 now amounts to $3,210 per
person, or $9,630 per year. A mini-farm that supplied 85% of those needs would
produce a yearly economic benefit of $8,185
per year
– the same as a pretax income of $12,200, except it can’t be
taxed. That would require 2,100 square feet of space and 10 hours a week from
April through September – a total of 240 hours. This works out to the
equivalent of nearly $51 per hour.”[8]
8 million tons
In May of 1943 Life Magazine called gardening for the war
effort “the greatest outdoor fad since miniature golf.” Every “unprotected
piece of ground was being dug up for victory gardens”. 20 million gardens were
producing 8 million TONS of food – 41% of the vegetable produce consumed in the
nation.
Average Crop Yields
Planted Intensively – (from Mini Farming by Brett L. Markham)
Crop
Yield in Pounds per 100 Square Feet
Green beans (as a vegetable)
100
Green beans (dried as protein)
20
Beets (just the roots)
200
Beets (just the greens)
200
Broccoli
75
Cabbage
300
Cauliflower
200
Carrots
350
Chard
550
Corn (on the cob)
55
Corn (dried for cornmeal)
18
Cucumber
360
Eggplant
100
Kale
120
Leeks
500
Leaf Lettuce
320
Head Lettuce
180
Muskmelons
100
Onions
300
Peppers
120
Peas
100
Parsnips
290
Pumpkins
120
Spinach
130
Sunflower (shelled seeds)
6
Summer squash
250
Winter squash
200
Tomatoes
250
Watermelons
180
Barley
20
Oats
10
Rye
20
Wheat
20
*Crop yields are average & not specifically adjusted for
Alaska
Per-Person Yearly
Food Requirement– (from Mini Farming by Brett L. Markham)
Crop
Per-Person Yearly Requirement
Vegetables
456 lbs
Fruit
365 lbs
Wheat, corn, oats & rice
250 lbs
Total lean meats & eggs
159 lbs
2006 USDA Food
Pyramid Recommended Servings– (from Mini Farming by Brett L. Markham)
Person
Grains
Vegetables
Fruits
Milk
Meat
Male, age 25-50
11
5
4
2
2.8
Female, age 25-50
9
4
3
2
2.4
Teenage male
11
5
4
3
2.8
Teenage female
9
4
3
3
2.4
“Global Grocer” Food
Import Data from Food & Water Watch
Food
Odds it was Imported
Percentage Increase in Imports 1993-2007
Top Exporters to the United States
Raisins
1 in 7
330%
43.5% Chile
42% Argentina
19.8% South Africa
Grapes
1 in 2
81%
72.6% Chile
23.4% Mexico
1.9% Brazil
Peaches (canned)
1 in 6
284%
44.3% China
20.8% Greece
Peaches (fresh)
1 in 10
43%
97.2% Chile
Pears (canned)
1 in 9
25,833%
67.3% China
25.5% Thailand
3.2% Spain
Pears (fresh)
1 in 4
66%
48.6% Argentina
22.8% Chile
14% China
Artichokes (processed & fresh)
3 in 4
187%
40% Peru
24.4% Spain
22.2% Chile
Peas (canned)
1 in 10
73%
44.4% Canada
16.7% China
11.5% Ecuador
Olives (canned)
4 in 5
71%
51% Spain
27% Morocco
7.2%Argentina
Tomatoes (processed)
1 in 12
213%
39.7% Italy
28.5% Canada
11.7% Mexico
Tomatoes (fresh)
1 in 3
156%
88.7% Mexico
10.4% Canada
.5% Netherlands
Mushrooms (processed)
3 in 4
45%
57.3% China
13.3% India
9.5% Indonesia
Mushrooms (fresh)
1 in 11
2021%
73.2% Canada
14% China
6.1% Mexico
Garlic (processed & fresh)
1 in 2
318%
92.7% China
3.8% Mexico
Pickles
1 in 13
393%
68.2% India
6.9% Canada
5.1% Poland
Food
Odds it was Imported
Percentage Increase in Imports 1993-2007
Top Exporters to the United States
Orange Juice
1 in 3
34%
67.1% Brazil
16.1% Mexico
11.5% Costa Rica
Oranges
1 in 9
984%
25.2% Australia
24.9% South Africa
19.9% Spain
Grape Juice
1 in 2
54%
88.1% Argentina
3.7% Chile
3.2% Canada
Apple Juice
4 in 5
153%
71% China
13.7% Argentina
5.1% Chile
Apples (fresh)
1 in 12
65%
59.8% Chile
22.9% New Zealand
15% Canada
Watermelons
1 in 6
317%
86.4% Mexico
5.5% Guatemala
4.4% Honduras
Strawberries
1 in 12
402%
99.3% Mexico
Blueberries
2 in 5
342%
48.8% Chile
35.3% Canada
14.9% Argentina
Raspberries
1 in 5
1052%
60.8% Mexico
22.6% Chile
16.2% Canada
Apricots
1 in 12
73%
80% Chile
20% New Zealand
Kiwi
4 in 5
106%
40.7% Chile
36.5% New Zealand
21.3% Italy
Cantaloupe
1 in 3
121%
48.3% Guatemala
24.6% Honduras
24.4% Costa Rica
Limes
1 in 1
280%
97.6% Mexico
Lemons
1 in 7
660%
46.8% Mexico
32% Chile
17.6% Spain
Cherries
1 in 14
848%
81% Chile
14.5% Canada
2.7% Argentina
Tangerines & Tangelos
1 in 3
564%
56.9% Spain
10.7% Chile
9.9% Peru
Food
Odds it was Imported
Percentage Increase in Imports 1993-2007
Top Exporters to the United States
Grapefruit
1 in 18
73%
72.9% Bahamas
25.5% Mexico
1.1% Israel
Asparagus
3 in 4
288%
56.6% Peru
41.7% Mexico
Eggplant
2 in 5
177%
76.9% Mexico
20.1% Honduras
1.5% Canada
Carrots
1 in 11
74%
64.9% Canada
30% Mexico
4.4% Costa Rica
Cucumbers
1 in 2
102%
82.9% Mexico
11.4% Canada
4.3% Honduras
Broccoli
1 in 10
480%
93.7% Mexico
6.3% Canada
Bell Peppers
1 in 3
170%
72.2% Mexico
21.6% Canada
2.9% Netherlands
Green Beans
1 in 9
177%
77.2% Mexico
20.5% Guatemala
.7% Canada
Squash/Zucchini
2 in 5
133%
93.4% Mexico
2.6% Costa Rica
1.3% Honduras
Potatoes
1 in 11
55%
99.9% Canada
Avocados
3 in 5
4149%
62.9% Mexico
32% Chile
4.4% Dominican Republic
Onions
1 in 7
80%
52% Mexico
17.1% Canada
15.5% Peru

[2]
Ibid.
2 Doiron,
Roger. “Subversive Plots” Mother Earth News, Aug/Sept 2012, p.24-25
[4]
Ibid.
[5]
Ibid.
[6]
Ibid.
[7]
Ibid.
[8]
Markham, Brett L. Mini Farming – Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre, Skyhorse Publishing,
New York, 2010, pg. 20

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