Slashdot.org is spreading a rumor that everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days. Um. Nope. I can’t exactly say I am a member of that group but I did recently join a nonprofit Urban Patchwork Farm.
Here’s how it works:
The members are neighbors interested in eating organic locally grown food. Each person chooses how he or she will contribute to that goal. Most people seem to fall into one of three categories: the land barons, the hobbits and the wizards.
The Land Barons are the people who have some space to share. Maybe they really hate yard work or just don’t have time to putter around on the weekends. Maybe they want their property to be more environmentally friendly with less lawn and greater diversity.
The Hobbits are people who actually DO like yard work and always seem to have some soil under their fingernails.
The Wizards are the people who do the arcane things. They would rather not get their hands dirty but they are willing to do organizational tasks, contribute money for the various expenses — or — ahem go to meetings (shudder). A brave lot.
Outside these mundane categories is Francie the Gamemaster. Francie gets her own category because she is a land baron, hobbit and wizard rolled into one. Francie is a retired microbiologist and nurse. She knows everything, thank goodness. Full disclosure: I am a total newb at growing veggies and so I hang on to her every word.
Today was a harvest day
Even with the recent poor weather we had two picnic tables filled with a wide assortment of vegetables and herbs. One family donated 15 dozen eggs from chickens that range around their acreage. Hopefully this fall I will have a surplus of pecan nuts to share. We meet every couple of weeks at a little neighborhood shop called in.gredients where we distribute the current harvest. If you live in Austin and are looking for a package free & zero waste grocer you might want to check in.gredients out.
Can neighborhood farms replace corporate farming?
Who knows but I do think that neighborhood farming is beginning to grow beyond being some kind of fringe notion. As the slashdot article suggests, when given the opportunity people eagerly choose to live near or in gardens.
There are multiple ways busy people can enjoy local food. I belong to the Cherrywood Farm but our neighborhood is also working on adding community garden plots to a municipal park space. Every week that I go to the nearby farmers’ market I see more and more people milling around.
I think the mainstream move away from the current broken agricultural system is happening slowly but relentlessly: a bit like that little anemone in my front yard. Change starts with an idea flying in like fluff and nonsense but it can take hold and even flourish if it can build up a strong network of connections and supports.
One local supporting player is The East Side Compost Pedallers.
Last year (or was it two years ago?) little signs literally started appearing on people’s lawns. Cherrywood had been invaded by a pilot composting project: The East Side Compost Pedallers. Those who sign up for the service get regular visits from a pedaller, a person on a bicycle who picks up the household scrapple. Scrapple is anything that can be composted. Instead of going into a landfill the scrapple gets delivered to local gardens like the Cherrywood Farm where it gets composted. So local ‘waste’ gets recycled into local veggies.
As mentioned, I am new to veggie farming. The productivity amazes me. Not only does The Cherrywood Farm produce vegetables year round but the plants are big and healthy. Without the addition of large amounts of compost I can’t imagine the farm could continue to be fertile and healthy. The farm so far has lasted 3 years. I hope it can remain for many more to come.