Growing a healthy food community is possible, no matter where you live. Every community can turn their back-yard into bounty, their sidewalks into herb gardens, and their lawns into food forests. We believe the experience of food is meant to be shared and that coming together around a table full of things freshly harvested and simply prepared is healthy. Moreover, it sets the scene for thinking creatively about solutions while inviting people into a positive loop of giving and receiving.
Growing food does not have to be hard and deconstructing that idea is our first step. We think it starts with what “landscaping” is – why don’t we grow food instead of lawns? Why don’t we share our extra harvest with our neighbors? If you don’t have access to good ingredients, can you begin by growing? By having a garden in your backyard, or even just an herb garden, you’re able to remove the middle man by providing yourself with direct access to good food. This is the starting point for a vibrant food community. We all have to begin somewhere and since we can all grow food, that should be where.
I started to realize the garden was something special when I began gardening with my mom as a kid. It took until college to start growing food but, once I did, everything changed. Somehow the act of growing something essential to our human experience made me feel like I had the capabilities and potential of the entire world at my hands. The possibility was infinite: I could grow anything and that knowledge changed my life.
I dove in. I went head first, straight to the deep end, transforming my backyard into a thriving garden. Ultimately, gardens became the platform through which I’d meet like-minded people, enamored with food and growing it. In college, we had a backyard farm, we worked on farms, and we turned our lives, into a culture of gardening. I think tasting and touching it made all the difference. I mean, walking down the street to pick strawberries, driving up the coast to pick tomatoes, it leaves an impact.
For me, spending the rest of my life with food and growing it was going to be the core of who I was and what I did. I know that some people see gardening as a reach, but it’s fundamentally harmful to spend too much time in industrialized society and urban environments without some sort of true, honest connection with nature. Fortunately, the easiest way is through gardening.
Gardening is not just a joy, it’s also edible food and the best-case scenario: you put in work and you get something you need out of it. Plus, it’s incredibly easy because you can truly garden anywhere. Additionally, it’s accessible because you do not need a lot of money to do it. In fact, if you live in a food desert, growing your own food can actually be a huge benefit.
It’s important to remember that growing a garden doesn’t have to be intimidating. You don’t have to go all out with the perfect backyard garden or not do it at all. It really is as simple as starting small and building a connection to nature and food. That’s it. It can be an herb garden and that’s amazing. Maybe you eventually add in a little veggie box of lettuces. One day, a lemon tree might find its way into the mix and, maybe, on the far end, you eventually have a full homestead. Really, anything from a couple herbs to absolutely everything is possible and perfect.
Start somewhere, start small, and start simple. The process doesn’t have to be an overnight thing. One of the best parts about garden culture and growing your own food is that, yes it’s delicious, but it also comes with an amazing community. Gardeners and growers want to share their passion and they want to connect. That’s just as much part of the harvest as whatever veggies you’re pulling out of the ground.
For us, at The Ecology Center, we’re transforming lawn culture into a rich, vibrant garden culture. We think lawns work much better as food forests mainly because we can be more connected as communities.
It’s that simple. The more connected we are with nature and each other, the better we are for it. So when we start to pull up our lawns and get our hands in the soil, we experience an amazing reconnection.
One day, our communities will be entirely transformed into holistic ecosystems but it starts with deciding that we don’t want to pull into our garages and close off our doors, having the gardener come to mow the lawn.
We have to start asking ourselves what kind of community we want to live in and just because we can’t see what we want now, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. We want to see big, beautiful, established trees lining our streets because we think a key indicator for a healthy community is shade. Having shade and having pride in our landscapes makes us want to spend time outside, connecting with nature.
Ideally, most gardens should have a section dedicated to the kitchen. Hopefully, there are a few fruit trees in there, too. Eventually, we want our local cities to see value and health in their communities having gardens over lawns.
Gardening is not a privileged benefit. It’s one of the biggest weapons we have as citizens because we have the power to grow our food, liberating us from the control of big business.
It’s important to remember that gardening and creating ecosystems starts with education.