Nobel Prize Winning Economist Gary Becker Says We’ll Fix the Food Crisis with Gardens

Sharon April 25th, 2008

That’s not quite the way he phrased it, but I thought it rated a seperate post on this blog to note that Nobel Prize winning Chicago economist Gary Becker thinks that among other reasons food prices can be stabilized by putting into production the vast quantities of arable land converted to suburbia and cities worldwide.¬† “Persistent high and climbing prices of grains and other foods will induce conversion of some of this land back to farming.”

Well, things are shifting, aren’t they?


16 Responses to “Nobel Prize Winning Economist Gary Becker Says We’ll Fix the Food Crisis with Gardens”

  1. MEAon 25 Apr 2008 at 11:02 am

    How about no sales tax on tool, veg. seeds, etc. Not sure about garden gnomes being taxed. They might be a moral booster.

  2. MEAon 25 Apr 2008 at 11:16 am

    Yesterday a co-worker at one of the branches called up to ask I could give him some seeds. A quck chat suggested that he do best with spuds. This am a lb (which may be more than he has room for) and a few spinach seeds went off on the run.

    Just now someone else asked me about growing spuds — she heard they were easy. One thing let to another, and I’m bring in my seed box on Monday. Years of talking about by garden and bring in fresh stuff may be paying off.

    I know I can’t do it all alone, but I can do what I can do.

  3. rube cretinon 25 Apr 2008 at 11:39 am

    Maybe there is hope. Finally an economist uses the very basic principal of substitution and discovers that converting lawns to into gardens is a good idea. Of course, many ignorant peasants figured this out years ago and are reaping the myriad of benefits from kitchen and larger gardens. Two of my three children and all my grand children are involved in gardening and it gives me a level of comfort, especially in view of how fast things seem to be coming unglued.

  4. Nicole from Blue Collar Crunchon 25 Apr 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Less than a week after planting anything food-producing in my
    yard, I know I’m already wondering what else I can get in the
    ground before it gets too warm. The gardening bug is powerful.

  5. Alfred Sawatzkyon 25 Apr 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I love reading your blog! Thank you for your thoughtful posts.

    We have a little bit of a lawns-to-gardens revolution happening here in Boulder, CO. Kipp Nash and friends are ripping out lawns and replacing them with Veggie Gardens. The are also setting up a community fruit harvesting program.

    The program’s web site is at

    The Wall Street Journal has an article and video on this organization as well at

  6. Taraon 25 Apr 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Heh! Me too (although I’ve had stuff in for about six weeks here in Texas). I just need to make sure I leave enough yard for the dogs! I can just see their poor faces now…”But momma, where are we supposed to, you know…go??”

  7. Idaho Locavoreon 25 Apr 2008 at 2:31 pm

    It’s at least a Double Dose of Daily Doom on LATOC today. If’n you’re still taking a breather, don’t click. You’ve done been warned. ;-)

    Speaking of spuds, THAT’S what I forgot to get started last weekend! I need to go dig those babies out and get them going tonight or tomorrow.

  8. Jadeon 26 Apr 2008 at 6:26 am

    Anyone else hear about the ug99 wheat rust spreading? (The url is tremendously long, so I’m going to cut it in thirds.)

  9. Idaho Locavoreon 26 Apr 2008 at 10:16 am

    Hi Jade - yeah, that’s pretty scary. Especially given the part of the world that it’s in at the moment.

    “But more recently, the administration has begun reversing direction. The State Department is recommending ending American support for the international agricultural research centers that helped start the Green Revolution, including all money for wheat research….[This] is tantamount to the United States abandoning its pledge to help halve world hunger by 2015.”

    I think it’s pretty clear we have abandoned that pledge. I think between the Iraqi war, biofuel subsidies and Wall Street bailouts, we probably are running pretty short on funds to “help” other countries with their food problems these days.

    I just hope the farmers of Uganda and other countries affected by this disease still have in their seedbanks some of the grains they used to grow before we convinced them that high-input industrial monocropping was the way to go.

  10. Jadeon 26 Apr 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Idaho Locavore-

    I hope they kept some as well, but the line in the story about spores coming across in three days on the jetstream is giving me nightmares. (I come from a dryland Washington wheat farming family.)

    Other articles indicate that this is another examples of Shock Doctrine, where Monsanto and their ilk can profit from famine and disease.

  11. Idaho Locavoreon 26 Apr 2008 at 5:12 pm


    Yeah, Monsanto and their kind were on my mind, too, when I read this. I hadn’t realize how many traditional farming economies we helped that company destroy until just this month when the food stuff got me looking around and doing some more research.

    If the rust hits Washington state, then we’ll be toast not too long after.

  12. Jerahon 27 Apr 2008 at 9:01 am

    Becker’s article says:
    “It will also encourage consolidation of some agricultural holdings into the hands of more efficient farmers.”

    He’s speaking about developing countries. What does he mean by that statement? Does he mean that US agricultural subsidies have destroyed the incentive for developing nations to grow their own food, but this will reverse that trend and provide the incentive for developing nations to reinvest in their own agricultural sectors? Cause I agree with that, but why does that have to mean a consolidation of farming land into a few hands?

    I don’t know, it sounds like an odd way of saying it. it sounds like he’s saying that the problem in developing countries is all those durn inefficient small-time peasants. Now if they just had some good old fashioned megafarms owned by agribusiness conglomerates, like we do here, they’d do better at feeding themselves.

    Or maybe I’m reading that wrong and he’s expecting the governments of those countries to get more involved, a la Cuba during their crisis.

  13. Sharonon 27 Apr 2008 at 11:18 am

    Jerah, no I agree it is still mostly the same bullshit that economists have been spouting. In fact, I ‘m not clear that he really is talking about gardens at all - he could be suggesting we’ll turn suburban Atlanta over to agribusiness and bulldoze it ;-). But I was struck by what a radical thing it is to say that we’ll re-agriculturalize the ‘burbs. I actually found this in an article that was making exactly the opposite point to my own - “oh, it is no big deal - Becker says we have all this agricultural land, so we’ll be fine.” The fact that there are houses and people on it seems not to have connected. ;-).


  14. Greenpaon 27 Apr 2008 at 11:33 am

    Sharon. whew. You had me scared there for a minute; I was going to ask- do you have some evidence that any economists have ever had a clue about the real world? :-) I’m not sure I’ve seen any.

    Anyway. When I worked in China a decade or so ago, I was invited to the home of my host’s inlaws. Grandpa had been one of Mao’s generals; and Vice Governor of a huge province; retired now. So he was living in top-tier retirement quarters. He greeted me in his front yard- where he was weeding the melons. 100% of the front yard produced food. Chickens and outhouse in the back. Sure, China’s changed a little- but a lot of the world already works this way.

  15. kestrelon 27 Apr 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I am doing my part. I just got a tomato plant set out in a pot on my apartment balcony, alongside a rosemary pland and some Sweet Alyssum (to attract beneficials). I have seeds of a bush cucumber, buttercrunch lettuce, and pot basil, all suitable for container gardening. And Italian parsley seeds.

    I’m thinking I can probably do hot peppers and eggplant, too.

    It’s really hot here in the summer, so this is an iffy proposition for anything not in the ground, but I want to produce as much of my own food as I can even though I no longer have a back yard to do it in……

  16. Reyon 28 Apr 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Sharon. You have found your calling: prophet, sister, motivator with a touch of blasphemer thrown in.

    There are folks in the UK just like us who have come up with a “primer” on how to ready our towns/cities for the “energy descent” that is upon us. It is wonderfully organized stuff: It saves us from having to reinvent the wheel. There are also a few You Tube videos where you can listen to Rob Hopkins - one of the founders of transition towns and a permaculture guru. Reading and watching their stuff has calmed my fears and prodded me to get organizing with others.

    Let me know what you think of it.

    In solidarity,
    Waterloo, Canada

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