Community Garden . . . Inside the Fence

Last year's garden beneath the trees

Last year's garden beneath the trees

Dear Reader:

Sometimes thinking outside the box gets you into the strangest places–in this case it got me fenced in. Let me explain.

I live in a subdivision. Okay, nobody here wants to call it that because it doesn’t look like a cookie-cutter subdivision ala WEEDS (too many trees and dirt roads), but our “homeowners association” is 2000-houses big, is situated on the outskirts of town, and it is a good 35-60 minutes from any of the cities where most of our community members work. Every day, members of my community hop into their individual gasoline-powered vehicles and leave the community in order to travel to their place of employment. We have no restaurants, grocery stores, corner markets, coffee shops, bookstores or any other retail businesses within the borders of our incorporated development. We have to drive out of the community for food, clothing, furrniture, trash bags, tiolet paper, lattes, cigarettes, and everything else people can’t live without. Needless to say, there is no public transportation.

Our 1/4 to 1 acre lots are shaded by tall, half-dead white pines whose tendency to crash down during wind and ice storms can knock electricity out for days, but on this former productive farmland whose old stone walls stand testament to our community’s agricultural past, we cannot cuts trees in order to provide sunlight for backyard gardens. Tweaking the tree-cutting policy to make room for veggie gardens would take an act of the State of Maine legislature, or so one of the community trustees informed me at a Board meeting. However, the Board was willing to consider an alternate suggestion–the community garden.

I can work with that.

Community gardens provide space for food production, foster relationships among neighbors, encourage self-sufficiency, and give our kids a chance to learn gardening techniques. The American Community Garden Association provides guidelines and suggestions for groups just starting out on a communal agricultural venture. Click here to learn more.

Our first garden committee meeting was held this week, and we discussed possible locations. An unused tennis court seems perfect. It is 117 x 117 feet and surrounded by a tall fence–perfect for keeping out pesky deer that love to munch on tender vegetable seedlings. We will be asking the Board for permission to dig up the cracked court surface and to use community-owned loam to provide soil for the garden. Specifics have yet to be worked out such as size of lots, best-practices (i.e. rules), and whether or not we will make a driveway through the center of the garden area so that people can back their pickups to their plots, but community members are interested, echoing a trend across our country to pick up where Victory Gardens in the 1940’s left off.

When the First Family puts a backyard garden at the White House, we know something is changing out there in America. We are beginning to realize that in order to have a sustainable lifestyle, we need to bring food production back home, as in back of the home.

If towns and cities and subdivisions foster a spirit of self-sufficiency regarding food, then we are one step closer to weaning ourselves from big agriculture, big corporations, and big oil. We will provide a safety net for ourselves independent of big government. The spirit of freedom in a summer squash. Self-reliance in a sun-ripened tomato. Can it really be that simple?

A backyard or community garden is just one way to cut your reliance on multinational supermarket chains, food trucked thousands of miles, and genetically-modified vegetables. Other options are shopping at locally-owned grocery stores, frequenting local farm stands, and joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. More on these later. In the meantime, enjoy the warmer weather, the daffodils, and the sound of the “peepers” at dusk . . . outside the box.

6 responses to “Community Garden . . . Inside the Fence

  1. 117′ x 117′ doesn’t sound like enough space to need a driveway. Maybe ya’ll should consider getting community wheelbarrows.

    • Some of the members really want to drive their truck up to their plot to dump manure and whatnot. I did ask why we couldn’t just used wheelbarrows. It’s something we’ll be discussing–I’m guessing, at length;)

  2. Another good reason for a backyard/community garden: Not only is much of our food trucked hundreds of miles before it lands on our plates, but it’s also grown with the use PETROLEUM BASED FERTILIZERs (among many other chemical horrors), in soil that is completely depleted of nutrients …YUCK!! (unless it’s certified organic, of course).

    • You are right, Sarah! You probably know this better than I, but don’t organic veggies have higher concentrations of good nutrients than those grown with chemical fertilizers? I’ve heard it said that the soil in these big agribusinesses is nothing more than a sponge used to absorb the chemicals and to hold the vegetables in place. I loved the book OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA by Michael Pollan. In it, he describes going to a family farm that is using all kinds of neat, but natural, techniques to enhance the soil, raise chickens, etc.

      We do need to learn how to grow our own food again, free from dependence on fertilizers made from oil. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Rhonda Junkins

    Hi Shelly. Nice Blog – I’m an organic gardener and had a mini farm for years – raised most of our own food and loved every minute of it! Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Rhonda. Thanks for stopping in. I’m having “land-envy” lately, or more specifically, “farm-envy.” I’m not sure if I’d have the energy to actually run even a mini-farm, however, so gardening hat off to you! Farmers are my new heroes.

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