Solutions for Self-Reliance

The Opportunity Space for Growing Food Locally is HUGE


Today, let’s do some thinking on the market potential for growing food locally.

Let’s start with a big number.  US households regularly spend $44 billion a year on ornamental landscaping.   Wow.

Traditional Landscaping (Scottish Golf Course)

It would be easy to write an entire letter on how much of a waste, on many levels, this expenditure is.  However, I don’t see it as a waste.   Instead, I see it as a huge, sprawling opportunity for building businesses that help people grow food locally.

Let’s explore why.

Landscaping is already a huge market space.  It’s not tiny.  It already exists.   If we put that into perspective, the landscaping industry is nearly twice the retail value of the entire organic food market.

This also means that people clearly value growing plants and a HUGE number of them regularly spend some of their hard earned cash growing things locally.

The industry’s numbers back this up:

Percentage of U.S. Households Participating in

Lawn and Garden Activities 2001-2007

Activity 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Lawn Care 56 55 54 48 54 48 48
Flower Garden 43 41 38 36 41 33 30
Indoor Houseplants 46 44 41 39 42 35 31
Landscaping 37 34 33 33 31 30 27





In sum, the number of US households that actually grow something is 85 million on average, or about 77 percent of all households.   That’s goodness.

However, one thing you may notice from the numbers in the chart above is that they are all declining.  There’s a slow erosion, across the board, in ornamental gardening.  Where are they going?  Many of them are food gardening instead.  An estimated 36 m households are now food gardening and a whopping 21% of them were new to food gardening in 2009.

What does this mean?

This data indicates that budgets, tastes and priorities are changing.  That food gardening is replacing ornamental landscaping.

This implies that there is a growing opportunity to convert households that have professionally managed ornamental landscaping to professionally managed food gardens at an equivalent cost.  An opportunity to capture a large part of that $44 billion in spending to turn yards into gardens, before much of it evaporates in the next big crisis.

Remember, each person working on food, energy, water, or product production locally brings us one step closer to community resilience.   More on this topic in a future report on “Foodscaping.”

Your thinking about a future filled with fresh, local food analyst,


John Robb

PS:  Good news. 12 m growing households are already using natural fertilizers and pesticides.



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