Elderberry Bush

Growing Food? Growing Grass?

Student Activity based on “Growing Food?” and “Growing Grass?” articles from the July/August 2011Our Ohio magazine.

Academic Content Standard
(English Language Arts: Reading: Informational Text: Grade 7): In this student activity, “readers use tools to analyze literary text and strengthen their comprehension and critical thinking skills.  Knowledge-based information is an ever-changing genre, which encompasses daily communication. The ability to comprehend and analyze informational text develops critical thinking, promotes logical reasoning and expands ones’ sense of the world and self.”

(Explanation and key terms are from the Ohio Department of Education English Language Arts Curriculum Model, Adopted March 1, 2011.)

Growing grass? How about food? Discussion points

  • Read the article Growing grass? How about food? found in Our Ohio magazine (see links above).
  1. What is so unique about placing edible plants among or instead of ones’ landscaping plants?
  2. What do Ohio gardeners and professional gardeners accomplish by planting vegetables or grain in their landscape?
  3. Using the article, explain and define the phrases “ornamental landscape” and “functional aesthetics?”
  4. List the vegetables that gardeners are taking from a traditional garden and placing in their ornamental landscape. According to the article, why are these plants chosen?
  5. o    Why do you think fruit trees are grown in containers in the context of this article?
  6. Greenhouse owner Ruth Ham states that growing food in the landscape is “efficient.”  Explain what she means by this.
  7. Is any historical information provided to support this practice of planting food crops in flowerbeds? Explain.
  8. Nursery owner Bill Hendricks states that, “a walk through the garden can yield ready to eat fruits.” Rewrite this statement in your own words.
  9. Hendricks states that using plants that are “renewable resources such as hops” is a good idea.  Explain what he means by plants being renewable resources. (Hint:  Define “annual” and “perennial.”) What is the difference between planting hops and lettuce when exploring the renewable resource aspect of plants?
  10. How could you rewrite this sentence?
  11. Jeanne Quartz gives two reasons for gardeners to use edible plants in their landscaping. What are they?
  12. Two negative factors of incorporating food plants in ones landscaping are noted. What are the two drawbacks of this practice?
  13. After reading this first part of the article, do you believe it is a good idea to plant food plants in the ornamental landscape?  Do you believe the author is supportive of this practice? How can you determine the author’s intent?
  14. Are there enough details included in the article for a person to try out this “edible landscape” practice?

Growing food? How about grass? Discussion Points

  • Predict what the next section of the article will discuss with the heading “Growing Food? How about grass?”
  1. When Mike Brake states that, “the land was not as productive as others we had,” what does he mean? What would he typically grow on this land, if not grass? What factors make a piece of land good for growing food crops?
  2. Define “conservation” as it is used in the context of this article.  What is the farmer conserving?
  3. 92 acres of cropland is comparable to 92 football fields.  Does this sound like a lot of land to conserve by planting grass? When you compare 92 acres to Brake’s 9,000 acres that he still plants crops on, does it still seem like a lot?
  4. Explain the reasons Brake gives for not farming this land and planting grass instead.  What other benefits, from a conservation perspective, are provided by the author?
  5. Brake receives money from the CREP program for conserving this land.  According to the article, how was the money used and what were the steps taken to conserve this land?
  6. What are the two pieces of wisdom or two goals that Kelso Wessel used to give his students with regard to farmland?
  7. Did the author provide enough information for you, the reader, to decide whether planting grass instead of food is a positive choice?  Explain.
  8. How did the author use the headings in this article creatively? Did they catch your attention?

Hands on at Home or School

  1. Summarize the objective of the first part of the article, “Growing grass? How about Food?”  Do the same for “Growing food? How about grass?”
  2. Explain how the details in the two sections of the article compared and contrasted each other?
  3. Did the individuals who were interviewed for this article provide relevant information?  As a reader, would you acknowledge their knowledge / authority in this subject matter?
  4. Using the article, chart the facts of the article on one side and the opinions of the article on the other.  What are your conclusions?
  5. Research the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program on the Internet.  
  6. What is the purpose of this program?
  7. How many years must you not grow crops on your land to participate in this program?
  8. Ohio participates in this program. What other states offer the CREP program?
  9. Would this program help solve environmental issues in Ohio? For example, the toxic algae issues in some of Ohio’s fresh water lakes?
  10. What are your personal opinions of this federally funded program after researching the information?


  • Using a map of Ohio located at the Ohio Department of Transportation, or your own map, locate:
  1. Tuscarawas County, Ohio
  2. Perry, Ohio
  3. Richwood, Ohio
  4. Union County, Ohio
  5. Madison County, Ohio

This student activity was prepared by Camille Kopczewski, who is coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Grove City. She is a former sixth grade social studies teacher for South-Western City Schools. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.