Farmer D’s Citizen Farmers is featured in Best Self’s latest issue:
Farmer D has a lot of experience planning community gardens in the Southeast. Here he’ll share practices to ensure that all members of your community can participate in the garden and enjoy the fruits of their labor:
Community gardens have become the new hangout at parks, schools, places of worship, previously-empty lots, and any other little swath of land that can be transformed into a vibrant garden where both food and community are grown. Many community garden leaders intend their locations to be welcome havens for all, but achieving that in reality can sometimes be challenging. Here are 5 tips to help your community garden succeed:
1. Make sure your location is easily accessible.
Can you see the garden from the street, or is it blocked by weeds and debris? Is there available parking, including a bike rack? Do you have signs letting people know that it is a community garden and all are welcome to visit? If not, these are all easy, inexpensive fixes that might just mean clearing out and designating a little extra space to make your members and visitors feel more welcome.
2. Accommodate those with disabilities.
If you haven’t thought about accessibility for people with disabilities, you’ll probably think of it pretty quickly the first time someone with a cane, walker, or wheelchair can’t get up your wood-chipped path. This is where a paved path, at least partially, and an extra-high raised bed that a wheelchair can slide under or beside come in handy. many community gardens are incorporating these elements right from the get-go. Other amenities that take into consideration a wide range of abilities include shade areas, benches, convenient restrooms, and sensory integration elements such as herb gardens, wind chimes, art elements, water elements, food sampling areas, and other features where the five senses are awakened.
3. Maintain an open door (gate) policy.
There comes a time, usually around the first tomato-snatching, when community garden leaders decide to lock their gardens to reduce the chances of theft. Best practices nationwide show proven strategies to achieve this goal without locking out the public. These include encouraging members to personalize their beds and harvest frequently to show that the food grown is valued, dedicating excess produce to a local food pantry to show commitment to those in need in the area, and offering a “thieves’ bed” where anyone can pick whatever’s ready to be harvested. Also, keep finding ways to involve more parts of the community in the garden, and you will increase the number of people who feel ownership and pride in it, and will thereby help protect it. Buddying up with your local police department is always a good idea. You could even offer a neighborhood precinct a few free plots in exchange for their support.
4. Provide a welcoming atmosphere.
Community garden leaders can set a good example for their members by always greeting visitors to the garden, engaging them in conversation, and inviting them to help or browse. People who linger, laugh, and learn together create a positive environment that is attractive to others. Some ways to know if you’re a quart low on this attribute are: (a) if your garden members are simply running in, watering, and leaving, (b) if your garden members don’t know each other’s names, (c) if you don’t have a steady stream of non-members coming by to check out the garden, and, of course, (d) if going to the garden is simply not fun.
5. If you want to grow food for sale, check the rules.
You now need to determine whether or not commercial activity is allowed, plus how you can accommodate larger equipment, food storage, accessory structures, and a larger compost operation than a community garden or home garden might require. Contact your city hall for exact details about local ordinances that affect growing food where you live. And be ready to dig in when it’s time for spring planting.
Pick up a copy of Farmer D’s book Citizen Farmers for more tips, stories and inspiration to get gardening!
Citizen Farmers is full of tried and true tips that Farmer D picked up while working on different community farm projects all over the country.
Here are his Top Ten Best Crops for Kids. Even the pickiest young eater will get excited about fresh fruits and vegetables if they grow it themselves:
A love of gardening runs in the family: here’s Farmer D’s son Tilden watering their backyard garden. Tilden’s favorite veggie is Broccoli.
This week is International Compost Awareness Week and we’ll be bringing you lots of great tips and inspiration for starting or growing your compost pile. we’ll also share why simply diverting your food scraps from the landfill is a good idea.
Citizen Farmer's author Daron 'Farmer D' Joffe was recently featured on the Mother Nature Network talking about what else but composting and his passion for community agriculture. Here’s the full article:
All photos: Rinne Allen
We are so excited to bring you the next installment in our Citizen Farmer profile series on Robby Astrove: an arborist, educator, organizer and musician too!
What is your favorite fruit or nut tree?
Serviceberry is my favorite. This small native tree is perhaps the most underutilized and under appreciated native fruit tree out there. Why I have no idea…. It’s beautiful with dainty spring flowers, plentiful with delicious and berries in summer, and shows off again in fall with striking fall color. Serviceberry is a super food high in anti-oxidants and pretty unknown. The flowers and fruit are valuable to wildlife, birds, and other pollinators and birds. This tree or shrub is found all over North America and also goes by the name Saskatoon, juneberry, or shadberry.
What is the easiest fruit tree crop to grow?
We asked Robby to add to the Citizen Farmers’ Top 10 Edible and Medicinal Perennials to Replace Landscape Ornamentals. These are great edible perennials that can provide food and medicine year after year. Without a moment’s hesitation, he chose figs.
Robby: Figs! They are tough in the urban environment; they get huge and have very high yields— sometimes delivering a summer and a fall crop of delicious figs, and are one of the few fruit trees you can take cuttings from and start a new tree. Once established, fruit trees are the easiest crops to grow as they require very little maintenance. Figs are not strongly associated with insects and disease problems. Figs are enjoyed fresh or can be processed in preserves, ice cream, etc. You will always be sharing your figs because you will have absolute abundance with figs.
How are you growing community through agriculture?
I never work alone when food is involved. Each time we plant, harvest, cook, and celebrate food abundance, we do it together as a community and find value in our collective efforts.
Learn more about a project close to Robby’s heart, the Atlanta Local Food Initiative.
Robby has created an excellent guide of Recommended School Orchard Trees and Orchard Packages.
We’re thrilled to bring your our first Citizen Farmers profile on Amy Pennington!
Amy and I met years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding, and with our two green thumbs, we immediately hit it off. She is a good friend and an amazing leader of the farm to table movement in the Pacific Northwest.
Amy Pennington is a cook, author, and urban farmer. She is the author of Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen, Apartment Gardening, Apples from Harvest to Table & Fresh Pantry - Learn to Love Your Vegetables, One Month at a Time. Pennington has been named one of Seattle Magazine’s 2013 Top 50 most powerful players in Seattle’s food scene and as a 2012 Bon Appetit Tastemaker. She has been featured in Bon Appetit, Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, GOOP.com, and Apartment Therapy. She runs GoGo Green Garden, an urban farming service specializing in organic edible gardens for homes and businesses and created Urban Garden Share – a national online resource matching gardeners to unused garden space. Pennington lives in Seattle.
What do you love to grow and recommend to others?
LETTUCE! Whether you opt for butterhead, romaine, crisphead, or loose-leaf, lettuce is one of the quickest and easiest plants to grow. Little Gem (a romaine variety), Rouge d’Hiver (a cross between romaine and butterhead), and Oak Leaf (a loose-leaf lettuce) are all great choices. If you’d like a summer lettuce, be sure to choose a heat-tolerant variety, while if planting in fall, a cool-season lettuce is in order.
How are you growing community through agriculture?
Urban Garden Share! Not everyone has land to grow food on. Even homeowners struggle with poor light and yards that are not suitable to farming. For those folks, apartment dwellers, condo living green thumbs and more, I started urbangardenshare.org – a national online resource connecting gardeners to unused garden space. With Urban Garden Share, we’ve made many matches over the years and I’m happy to offer a solution for people dying to get their hands dirty. Have a yard? Sign up! Need a plot? Cruise the listings. Want to launch in your city???? Email me (amy at amy-pennington.com)!
What do you think about Daron’s book Citizen Farmers?
Daron Joffe, Farmer D, is a living, breathing encyclopedia for green living and sustainable farming. He has traveled all over the US (and the world!) and learned every step of the way. With Citizen Farmers, this fabulous resource is shared amongst pages full of great information, inspiration and wellness. This book has the rare and genuine focus of one soul doing his best to live peacefully on and with Mother Nature. Inspiring? Hell yes. A must read for anyone interested in growing food, living fully and going green.
Learn more about Amy Pennington at www.amy-pennington.com.
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