Monday, February 14, 2011

Need a Garden? Borrow a Garden! Building Community and Resilience

There are many people in Newmarket who have access to a yard perfectly suitable for food production yet don’t bother gardening for a number of reasons. They may be elderly or too infirm to do the amount or kind of labour required, some may work long hours and don’t have the time, they may not have the skills required and some might even believe that food is too cheap and available to bother with gardening.

At the same time there are many people who are having a hard time feeding their families a healthy diet, people who have chemical sensitivities and need organic produce, and people who don’t believe that food will always be as cheap and available as it is today. This last point is a very poignant one if you look at the number of stories in the media recently about food inflation, crop failures caused by droughts, floods, wild fires and plant diseases. Reported food shortages and escalating energy costs makes it obvious that the cost of eating and overall food security will be major concerns in the near future.

One way to deal with this imbalance is a Yard Share program which encourages people with usable yards to partner up with those who have desire to garden but no access to land. As the program connects people it creates new community contacts, friendships and support mechanisms for those involved. It’s a great way to engage people who might be house bound or unable to do yard work who in return would receive a little companionship or a share of the fresh produce grown. For some it might just encourage them to come outside and attempt to putter around behind their gardener and help. These garden hosts may have a wealth of gardening, canning or cooking skills to share with their urban farmers even if they can’t do the physical work themselves.

Yard sharing is a great tool to increase local food security and to help alleviate poverty. Best of all its coming to Newmarket thanks to Vanessa Long who has started a Yard Share page for Newmarket on the Hyperlocavore site. If you are interested in offering land, becoming a gardener, teaching gardening skills or even donating tools/seeds/plants/labour for others who are trying to build gardens just join here.

There are no forced gardening partnerships in a Yard Share program, people join the site and state their interest to garden or their offer of land and people get together on their own and work out how they wish to manage a garden partnership. People can trade garden access for other yard work, companionship, food or just plain good karma.

Some people barely utilize their yards at all, no kids playing, no dogs running, and nobody lounging their weekends away or enjoying the cool of a summer night. A yard share garden is a great way of turning an uninviting sea of browning grass into a productive living part of a community. I think it’s a great idea.

I hope we see other Transition York Region members open Yard Share pages for their towns as well.