Saturday, February 21, 2009

neighborhood farming

This week we're going to examine a strategy aimed at expanding the area available for growing food in a particular neighborhood. It happens to be the neighborhood where I live. The map above shows my town. My neighbor is marked by an asterisk. I don't have an abundance of sun in my yard so a few years ago I went looking to see if other people had more sun and were interested in growing food. Here's my neighborhood.

Here's my property in red.

I started by going across the street and asking my elderly neighbor if I could garden in her backyard. Then I recruited Eric who grows food in his backyard and is transitioning into a career as a farmer. Next I was able to start a garden in the backyard of the rental house next door to my property. It was part of a bartering arrangement whereby the landlord agreed to take down a few dying trees and in return I now grow food on her property. All of these active gardens are shown in dark green.

Several other people have expressed interest in helping to grow neighborhood food and/or have offered a sunny spot for a garden. These properties are shown in light green.

The biggest single area under cultivation is the vacant lot down the street. I've had some sort of a garden on that property for four years but this year it has been greatly expanded. It's shown in yellow.

Next we have the people interested in buying food. In years past I have given extra produce to these people, sometimes just leaving it on the backdoor step of neighbors I've never met as a way to start up a conversation. This year some of these people might formalize the relationship by becoming paying customers. These folks are shown in blue.

Other people in the neighborhood have offered compostable material, especially fallen leaves and grass clippings. Most of them have also expressed interest in helping to grow food and/or buying it. In fact most of the property owners represented on this map have overlapping interests in this neighborhood farming effort. These people are shown in orange.

Lastly there's the elementary school right around the corner. They have a great courtyard perfect for growing food and quite a bit of land out back that could be used to grow a great deal of vegetables. Frankly I haven't had the time to seriously address this opportunity... yet.

All of this needs work. Yes we have 462 gallons of rainwater storage capacity at the site across the street from my house and 12 raised beds and a great old apple tree. At the vacant lot however we don't have enough mulch stored for this coming growing season and we'll have to use municipal water unless I can find enough people willing to put in a decent rainwater harvesting system. A formal work schedule has yet to be developed. And the school, a huge opportunity, has not been included as of now. In other words this is, like any collective effort, an ongoing project that I imagine will continue to evolve. But it is the beginnings of model of expanding food production efforts beyond the boundaries of one particular property and out into the surrounding community. I can't wait to see where we go from here.


Anonymous said...

This is fantastic! Exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to start in our neighborhood...thanks for the inspiration! (Love the visuals, btw....really makes it concrete.)

Kevin said...

Great idea! I have a very shady yard so I have been growing things in a community garden 7 minutes from my house. There is a vacant lot just down the street from my house that is owned by a church. I wonder if they would be willing to convert it to a garden. It would be the perfect location for a garden.

Lynn said...

This is the kind of thing we need to organize in every neighbourhood in every town and city.

Just the increase in the cost of food alone, never mind health and environment reasons, could spur more folks to begin this process, but we need to make it as accessible as possible.

There are folks in a number of cities using other people's yards
(renting them or paying in produce) to grow produce as a business.

Lots of possibilities here! Thanks for a great mapping of it.

Cheers, Lynn

Katrien said...

Wonderful post: makes a great impact!
I too have been thinking of this. There is so much lawn around us, lawn the kids used to play badminton on but the kids have now flown the coop... Once we have our garden set up and some experience under our belt, we too will go knocking on our neighbor's doors!

Matriarchy said...

As a gardener, a city dweller, and a planner, I just loved this post to death. color-keyed topo maps!

risa said...

This is the best thing of its kind I have seen and I emailed it from Goolge Reader to just about everybody I know ...

SoapBoxTech said...

I love to see this happening more and more!

Janaki said...

I'm inspired!