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Back to the Garden

Maybe it's the effect of spring, but people seem to have gardens on the brain lately, from reviving indigenous vegetable gardens to planting forests for food. Today's Guest writer Jeff McIntire-Strasburg brings another garden story. Jeff is the author and publisher of sustainablog.

OG04%28n%2914b.jpeg Can good gardens make good neighbors? Penn State human ecologist Christopher Uhl thinks so, and he’s testing the idea out this Spring. Uhl will be planting a vegetable garden, but not in his own yard; rather, he’ll grow his crops in the yard of his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Felice, and will share the harvest with her. In this simple arrangement, Uhl sees a model for food production that both addresses some of the most unsustainable elements of our current system, and builds community around one of the most basic human activities: feeding ourselves. He notes:

Here in central Pennsylvania, we have a lot of land in our front yards, backyards, church grounds, school grounds, business parks that could be used for the growing of food.
At present, we spend a good bit of time and money maintaining our largely sterile lawnscapes. Many of us even hire gardeners to care for our grounds. As an alternative, why not allow a young person, anxious to get a start in agriculture but without the means to buy land, to start a neighborhood "farm" by knitting together land parcels in your neighborhood, thereby creating a patchwork farm. Those of you in the suburbs, with half acre and acre lots, could be heroes as you transform your subdivisions into diverse, productive patchwork farms.
Think of the advantages: You'd get fresh veggies, make deeper connections with your neighbors, give your kids the chance to live in the midst of something real and vital, and have the satisfaction of knowing that the surplus food from your land was going to be offered to others through local and regional farmers' markets.

At the turn of the 20th century, the idea of neighbors sharing in a harvest was still relatively normal; early in the 21st, it’s foreign to most of us in the developed world. CSAs and farmers’ market do much towards eliminating some of the most ecologically damaging elements of modern agriculture. Uhl’s concept of patchwork “farms” provides a framework for not only healing the Earth, but also our fractured neighborhoods and communities.

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Great post, and great idea!

No, it's not the effect of spring - it's the effect of industrial agriculture on the planet. We need alternatives, especially ones that do multiple good things, whether restoring ecosystems or community.

We do something similar to this: we host a "Co-Garden". Several households garden together on our land - this year there are eight. We share the planning, work and harvests. We've pooled tools and skills, and are far more efficient than each household gardening alone. We often combine work days with a delicious potluck lunch. I think we're all in on it for the companionship as much as the crops - but the crops are abundant. Even in our cool climate, we grow a surprising amount of food on about 0.4 acre (0.16 hectare).

Posted by: David Foley on 27 Apr 06

In Preston and South Ribble, a lot of local people enjoy using their allotments, and we have plenty of allotments down near the River Ribble.

Now the City Council and nameless developers want to build a big barrage across our river, in order to turn it into a 'Water Sports Park' and 4000 homes and businesses in the river's floodplain - right on top of our allotments (and local football pitches)!

We enjoy our gardening in Penwortham and Preston, so we have started a campaign against these plans - our blog is here: please take a look!

Anyone who supports our cause is welcome to further it by publicising our blog or posting links to it.

Posted by: Riversider on 28 Apr 06

In Los Angeles, a permaculture backyard movement
has formed around the Pasadena-based Derveas family. They run gardening workshops and maintain the popular Web site Path to Freedom.

Posted by: Enrique on 28 Apr 06



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