Thursday, November 05, 2009

Design Project Three :: A Neighborhood Farming Effort

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.


Lise said...

This is fabulous. I have practically no sun, and have fantasized about gardening neighbors' yards, but haven't worked up the nerve to approach them yet. You're inspiring!

_ said...

I agree - you're very inspiring!

But I do have a few questions.

Do you have any problems with people messing with the gardens that aren't in your yard? Especially kids since your so close to the school.

What type of gardening do you do? Like is it a raised bed system or more "traditional" rows? Did you have any problems with the land owners of the volunteer land being specific on how or what you should garden? Was that a deciding factor?

I'm really interested in community gardening and all it's aspects. I just haven't been able to do anything quite yet. I'm positive next year is THE year. =)

Keith Farnish said...

Wonderful idea; this is real action - not waving banners and signing petitions, but engaging people with their space and what it means to them.

Well done; I shall repost.


Wild Gypsy said...

Outstanding strategy and well-illustrated.

Thank you!

Kim said...

Yay GIS!! And yay neighbors!!

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