Last year, more food than I would like to admit went to waste in my yard. If you haven’t seen my 2020 garden recap yet, check it out! My garden produced more food than Jim (husband man), Cecilia (daughter person), and I could eat, even when sharing the bounty with the friends and family we were socializing with. I took care to harvest some food specifically for the freezer, I preserved food by pickling, canning, and dehydrating, and yet, I still had a lot of food just be tossed into the compost.
So why did I made my garden even larger this year? Well, it’s pretty simple; so that I could create a community among my neighbors.
CommunityA group of people who live in the same area or who share a common characteristic, like gardening, or eating. Eating is my favourite kind of community assembly
Now, you could argue that my neighbors and I already belong to a community, as we literally all live in each other’s vicinity, but aside from the casual conversations I have with my next door neighbors, D&W, watching my kid play with other kids while I stand there with the other parents, and the constant walks Cecilia and I take, we don’t really interact with our neighbors which is a shame. So I decided that this year, instead of letting food go to waste, I would create a place where I could share garden fresh produce.
My ultimate goal here is to share my excess and have neighbors share theirs. To start a conversation around growing our own food, and living a more sustainable life. And to get to know my neighbors a bit more intimately. I hope that by offering a community space to share, we become more interconnected and learn from one another.
I brought up this project with a small group of people in a discussion around food security and I had two individuals reach out to me, asking about my grassroots project. Until this point, I didn’t think about it as a grassroots project, and just something I was doing for my family and for my desire for community, but the more I considered it, the more it became evident that this term “grassroots project” was so accurate, except there would be no grass, because I’m ripping my lawn out!
This project of mine has a budget of $0 so I turned to my local Buy Nothing group (you know how I love my BN group) and Facebook Marketplace for free listings of the things I would need to make this project a little more “real”. I wanted a table (to place my gifts) and baskets and bowls (to put the food into, on the table).
Fortunately, I was able to find a table pretty quickly (sooner than I was ready to put it out!), and I’ve now started collecting baskets and bowls to share the wealth.
My next step was telling my neighbours about this. Because of COVID I couldn’t exactly go door knocking, so I worked on a letter which I then printed (I decided that using materials I already had, like paper, ink, and seeds did not count against my budget) 60 copies of. This was a big undertaking for me because I also decided that I wanted to make sure that my neighbours wouldn’t just think this all was spam or someone trying to convert them to another religion before they even opened the letter, so I coloured a different fruit/veg/plant drawing on every.single.letter and wrote out one of two things “It’s like a farmer’s market, but no farmer and free” or for the ones which my drawing suffered “I grow food better than I draw it!”
The day after we sent out these letters (which Cecilia and I hand delivered), our Instagram had a bunch of new followers and we had neighbours already dropping by, asking after the mint I had planted. My table wasn’t even out yet, and our neighbours were excited!
I’ve also applied for a Neighborhood Small Grant, for which I’ve been approved, which will allow me to grow plants specifically for this project AND build a planter box just for neighbour use. In it, I will be planting some lettuces, mints, and perhaps other small things, and posting videos to instruct neighbours on how to harvest these goodies for themselves. I will have another blog post though to share more about that project, which I’ve titled Hansard Growing.
As this project grows (pun intended) and I learn more, I hope that I can inspire other small neighbourhoods to do something similar. All it takes is one person to make a good change in their community!