Americans who worry about food security, climate change and disintegrating communities can find the solution to all three right in their own backyards – with a garden share.
The concept is simple. If you have a yard you never use, a vacant lot that has gone to seed, or a few acres of good farmland that sits idle through the seasons, connect with someone who wants to rent a garden plot, and let them put the land to good use.
People want to grow their own food, now more than ever.
Millions of Americans have taken up their spades and started growing vegetables in recent years, inspired by Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden and advocacy groups like Food Not Lawns. Collectively, we planted four million new gardens between 2008 and 2013, according to the National Gardening Association (NGA). That brings the total to a remarkable 37 Million gardens nationwide.
Still, two out of every three Americans aren’t growing any of their own food.
This is true despite the fact that a garden saves the average family a lot of money: $70 invested yields a $600 return. The benefits go far beyond the pocketbook, too. The NGA says people garden because the food tastes better, it’s fresher, and they like to spend time outdoors. Studies show health benefits range from a better mood to a reduction in heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia.
Why isn’t everybody gardening?
Mel Bartholomew, the celebrated author of Square Foot Gardening, says it comes down to lack of land, time and experience. But the number one reason people don’t garden is a lack of space.
“I have no room, my yard is too small, I have no yard,” Bartholomew writes in his Top 10 list of “garden-dodging” excuses. “These days, space is at a premium.”
The solution: Connect people who have land with people who want to grow food.
Consider the story of Nat West. He was growing food on about 250 square feet of garden space in his own yard, but yearned for more. When he tried to get a space at his local community garden, he discovered there there was an 18-month waiting list for a plot. This is all too common: interest in community gardens is soaring, and while there are now three million gardens across the United States, waiting lists can be up to five years long.
West, who shared his garden-hunting story on The Slow Cook blog, was forced to take matters into his own hands. He used Google Earth to find abandoned lots near his house, then cross-referenced them with city property records to find the names of the property owners. Then he reached out.
“I got one response, for a full empty lot directly across the street from my house, 5000 square feet of flat, full-sun, absolutely perfect,” West wrote. “The landowner had recently received a nuisance complaint from the city about the buildup of refuse on the lot. She was elated that I would clean up the lot and turn it into a garden.”
It was a win-win. West expanded his garden as he had hoped, and the landowner got the lot cleaned up. Plus, West provided her with a CSA-style box of food.
Why does this kind of community-building collaboration have to be so difficult? It doesn’t!
Alfrea was built to help gardeners and landowners connect.
We’re starting a garden share movement that helps people who want to rent a garden plot find landowners to want their space put to productive use. By starting a garden share, you can:
- Directly address the No. 1 problem facing would-be gardeners: lack of land
- Help reduce the backlog at community gardens
- Improve food security in your community
- Cultivate new friendships with like-minded neighbors
- Fight climate change by reducing food miles and restoring carbon to the soil.
Alfrea can help. Would-be gardeners can find and rent a garden plot with a free membership; landowners looking to rent out space pay an affordable membership fee. Check us out!