Gather, Eat, Grow, Repeat.

Food-themed events are on the rise.  It’s not difficult to understand why, nor difficult to do. We can (should) all get together this way, not just to raise funds or support a particular cause.  We should for the simple benefit of connection that it brings.  Getting together and talking about things is like writing out a note in longhand instead of sending an email – you don’t do it all the time, but when you do, it’s really appreciated (and can be enjoyed even when the hard drive fails).

Our February Repeat

Our event last Saturday once again proved that groups can be really creative. Discussions about art, elementary school education, local yard sharing and homemade wine surrounded the main topic of urban farming and community food system work.

Gathering like this is one of several ways we can all participate in advancing urban agriculture and community food.  Brainstorming about it helps bring awareness and provide resources to interested folks.  We can also go foraging and take extra food to pantries. Another thing to do is to start growing. Even growing on a small strip of land or in containers is a valuable education into how things work and can promote sharing of extra produce. Start a yard share. If you like to garden…but don’t have space…and have a neighbor/friend who does have space but doesn’t know how or like to garden…take over their yard.  They’ll let you if you show them how great it can be.  Are they single? Maybe there’s a date in it for them.

Then, bring it all around full circle and have a neighborhood feast with the harvest.

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Love thy neighborfood

Sending some Valentines Day love and getting all the gardens (both personal and new sites) organized and planned.  We’ll do tomatoes, bell peppers and squash at the sites, for sure.  (Thinking about trying grapes at home this year!)  We’re hoping to get more ideas at our community raising dinner later on this week, too.  Between these two events, an idea has already taken root (route?).  One of Saturday night’s attendees mentioned our community supported kitchen research, and she and I started talking about other ways communities could support each other through the garden.

Through OriginalGreen, we want the garden to be for the community in the standard ways…distributing food among residents, mobile food carts, exchanges/sales to local restaurants.  But even less formal and more available to the entire community will be trees that will be available for gleaning.  If someone wants to grab an orange from a limb overhanging the public sidewalk, we want to make it clear that that’s cool.

We talked about ways to support the neighborhoods where our sites are and how we don’t appreciate enough all the local, edible plants.  It was during this discussion that I had an “a ha! moment”: why not Community Supported Gleaning?  Why not work with a small group of residents in a limited radius to head out and pick some of the neighborhood’s overburdened fruit trees?  Then, distribute that gleaning to others utilizing the cooperative model? It would be like having your own supermarket on the street. As with most of the “a ha!” moments that present themselves around home&community inc, few are unique or pioneering (even OriginalGreen is about getting back to our growing/homemaking origins).  Indeed, a simple Google search reveals many a community supported foraging group.

But, we imagine that around and for our sites, it would be less wild berries, mushrooms and nettles and more avocados, oranges and loquats.  People would collect the fruit and distribute it to others who subscribed (a few bucks for the service) for a small box. Membership would be free. Certainly the prospect brings up all sorts of questions about regulations or permits.  Perhaps make it a “club,” as others have, so the responsibility rests with participants?  Ah, who knows?  But every community could use this kind of sharing.  Just another idea for bringing a little food appreciation and love to the neighborhood.

If you want to know where you can glean and forage, we’ve compiled a list with information for 21 states.

Happy Valentines Day.

Why not?

I’ve been asked to explain “why” we’re getting people together in our community raising series.  My answer has typically been “why not?”  The answers to that question reveal more about the asker’s sense of optimism and, more than likely, that they are great candidates for more community face time.  For your consideration…

How many times a year, a month, a week do you sit down at the dinner table with friends and family and have a conversation?  If you do, you know the sense of connection when conversation becomes free-flowing and meaningful exchanges take place.  Sitting down to eat with other people can be an inspiring, creative experience.  Plus, reaching up and out as a group is sustainable, encouraging and fun.  And that brings me to what we at home&community inc get out of holding this kind of gathering and how it’s related to our overall goals.

We need to meet with and reach out to other people so we can remember, appreciate and care about other people. Simple right?

Our community food system and homesteading project relies upon this truth.  For so long, it has felt like everyone is trying to do something but little is coordinated.  Or there are a bunch of hoops when it’s a simple concept of growing and sharing.  Between the universities, schools, community garden associations, food/homesteading bloggers, backyard gardeners, restaurants, us…it’s just overwhelming.  After our last community raising dinner and all the meaningful conversations there, we took a deep breath and decided — in the immortal words of Nike — to just do it.  We’ve got some land, we’ve got some seeds, we’ve got major Home Ec skills, we’ve got a bunch of people that are ready to learn, we’ve got you and everyone who’s ready to get ideas in motion.  And we’ve got it all on a pared down, intimate, personal and meaningful scale.

We’re doing less, so we can accomplish more.

Our new sites are smaller and manageable to make it easier to have a meaningful exchange with the low-income residents we serve.  We’ll coordinate training and production at these smaller, close-knit sites.  Each site will know its own, local needs — what kind of distribution plan  (ie: how much to neighbors, how much to market), what kind of homesteading programs (ie: canning, nutrition, sewing, cleaning products), etc.  All with the added benefits of helping residents develop marketable skills and entrepreneurial opportunities.

So, our effort is to get folks to the table (literally) to eat, talk and create.  Once you get going, it’s easy, makes perfect sense and feels right.  It all begins with baby steps.  For instance, resist the temptation to send an email.  Write to someone on paper every now and again (on recycled, homemade or seed-filled paper!). Resist in little and big ways.  When we do, we might just grow something…because resistance is fertile!