Local Food: The Road to Damascus

Of late I am on a mission to reconnect (sub)urban Wisconsin to get back to their roots. Literally. I want more people growing more of their food. My Sub Acre Ag project is grand -designed to permit a family of 4 to meet most of their vegetable needs for most of a year with good canning, or to trade/sell/donate the surplus at local markets or with neighbors. But its scale and complexity will most likely turn some people off, so I am also looking for a “Starter Garden” to encourage people to grow some food in their backyards… even if it is only in 8 sq feet. As many of you know the satisfaction gained and the sheer taste difference in growing heirloom carrots, strawberries, and herbs can be a great way to change perspectives; to have the scales fall from your eyes allowing you to finally see how far we’ve fallen in two generations.

I am envisioning a program in our county that would be able to work in partnership with city based sustainability groups, Master Gardeners, and local businesses and nurseries to establish a program to get more people growing more food. To that end I am looking for current groups that are promoting backyard growing in urban areas to get ideas and advice from.

So far I like the idea of Future Farmer’s Victory Garden’s 2007+ program -be sure to check out their video to see the community and education possibilities just in the building phase of the project. Their garden is small, but would still provide room for alot of plants with a dense interplanting ala sq ft gardening. The fact that it is so small actually works in its favor: it allows the use of high grade items like wood sides for the raised bed (I would use cedar here in WI) to promote aesthetics, it could be watered by hand from a rain barrel, and it is not overwhelming. Fertility would be easily maintained by adding compost yearly from small backyard bins. Essentially the garden would be input free using resources on site.
See already we have not only grown several dozen salads worth of food, but we are integrating at home water cycling, reducing waste streams through composting, and doubtless the simple acts of growing food will spur thought on how in hell ripe tomatoes are available in Wisconsin year round and why they taste like cardboard. Gardens are a great “in” to teach sustainability!

I know that many readers are involved in local gardening programs in their areas of the country. I would love to hear your thoughts as well as any other links to programs that we can learn from.

Be the Change.

-Rob

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