Thursday, March 18, 2010

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 neighborhood 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.


straker said...

That's a dream come true, assuming more people besides just you and the other guy start farming these lots. I wish I had the guts to try what you're doing but the best I've been able to muster is passing out carrots. I'm putting in two raised beds in the FRONT yard this year and it's already attracting the attention of the neighbors. So hopefully that can be the start of something.

din819go said...

THis is incredible!! Please keep us posted! I am going to share it with my neighborhood association...THanks!!

Chris and his Mums said...

Wow, what an original idea. How did you conceptualize it? I think it'll work if your neighbors are "neighborly". I'd like to hear where this goes. Maybe it's worth a discussion in the homeowners association.

risa said...

I know you're on hiatus, so I don't know if you'll even see this. Stopped by for a re-read and to say this was one of my all time favorite posts by anyone anywhere.

bint alshamsa said...

Wow! The great thing about this effort is that anyone in the area likely has something they can contribute. If you have too many trees on your lot to get good sunlight, then you may be able to use the fallen leaves to contribute to the mulch. If you have nothing besides grass that grows so *great* that you wind up having to cut it all of the time, then you can alleviate that chore by allowing neighbors to grow crops on it instead. If you have excess crops, you maybe able to barter with it for other veggies that don't grow well on your lot. You don't necessarily need to have an entire neighborhood involved before you can start up something like this.