Sunday, January 3, 2010
Sharing Backyards and the Hyperlocavore: Tools for Urban Farmers
Got land? Not much, likely, if you live in an urban area. For years, I lived in rented suites. Then I moved to an apartment building. One of the reasons we chose that particular apartment was that it had an opportunity for growing food: not our tiny, shady deck, but a huge rooftop garden down the fall, sunny and perfect for growing tomatoes. An elderly neighbor also gardened on the rooftop. Concerned that I was moving into his domain, I chatted with him often about his gardening techniques, and over time I learned a lot about small space container gardening.
Now, most urban-dwellers do not live in wacky 1970s housing developments whose sales features include a sauna and a garden. If you don’t, never fear: web sites like Hyperlocavore and Sharing Backyards are here to help. The sites help people start yard-sharing groups and connect with urban and suburban dwellers with land, or farming skills, or a desire to have and learn how to grow food.
What is a yard share? Well, it’s whatever the gardener and the yard owner want it to become. Generally, a yard share begins when someone has land that they don’t want to garden and another person has no land and wants to grow food. The two meet through a group like a church or on a web site, and they decide that they are a good match. The yard owner may ask for a portion of the produce and may decide that there are certain times that are best for yard access.
These sites and many more like them across Europe and North America also promote the informal sharing of knowledge between people. As suburban and urban community members have become more distant from one another, informal sharing of knowledge has been lost. Reclaiming the knowledge of how to grow food in small, urban garden plots is a huge part of garden share projects.
These networks are all about sharing: sharing space, sharing food, sharing knowledge, sharing resources. If we’re going to thrive in lean times, we need to relearn how to share. It’s a skill that most of us learned a long time ago, when we were picking peas in our grandmother’s garden or on the swing at a local park. To ensure that we all have food security, it’s time to learn how to share again, so we can all have a taste of backyard bounty.