Here’s a new twist on eating locally grown food. Friends, neighbors and others in the same geographical area are banding together to grow as much of their food supply as possible. It’s a great idea, especially now during our economic downturn.
There are a number of ways to go about this. One way is for neighbors to get together and decide who will grow what. For example, Joe’s yard gets a lot of sun which means it’s ideal for growing things like tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash and anything else that requires flowering to produce. Kathy’s shadier yard is good for growing peas, beets, carrots, broccoli, lettuce and other greens. Someone may have nut or fruit trees. Others may have berry bushes or room to grow them. Even those without space for an in-ground garden can participate by growing in containers.
If someone in the group wants to start a garden, members can pitch in to help with the labor or give the new gardeners benefit of their years of gardening experience. Older people with limited physical abilities can let younger ones use their garden space while providing mentoring and answering questions. Children will learn a tremendous amount from the great hands-on experience and will be thrilled to plant and harvest their own crops.
If you’d like to try this community approach to food growing, try to draw in as many people as possible. Enlist a friend or two then go door-to-door explaining the basic idea. The positive response may surprise you. Some people may want to purchase the locally grown food when it is harvested. It’s very likely that the project will grow and take on a life of its own with each new person contributing a different idea.
One avenue to explore is bartering, always a good idea, but even more so now that cash is in short supply. For example, if a neighbor can’t actually grow produce, s/he may be able to give compostable materials such as fallen leaves or grass clippings (no lawn chemicals please). Someone else may donate use of their vacant lot in return for veggies. Don’t overlook small commercial growers in your area. They may be open to the idea of trading food one item for another
Of course the point of the project is for everyone to share in the produce as it becomes available, but, just as importantly, a sense of connectedness will develop and friendships will grow as a result of common interests. Swapping recipes, cooking together and harvest dinners are all fun activities which can be a part of the gardening project. Saving money and having fresh, delicious, locally grown food may turn out to be the lesser benefits for all involved!