Permaculture Research Institute / Rebecca McCarty / 18 April 2017
Since it is now April, and because spring is (finally!) officially upon us up here in Minnesota in the United States, we’re about to start the next growing season in the community garden that I help to plan and coordinate for. For me, the garden absolutely comes with some excitement of yet another opportunity to grow our own food, to build community, and to get outside and spend some time in nature after being cooped up indoors all winter long.
However, it also comes with many of the responsibilities of management in the human realm. This is a level of management that I hadn’t really fully contemplated when I first got involved with the garden. I don’t really regret my involvement with the garden by any means, but there are many things that I’ve learned so far through my experience as a founding member of a community garden planning and coordinating team since it was established five years ago.
I would like to share just a few of the things that I have learned along the way in community garden planning and coordinating. I hope that by sharing my experiences about the community garden that I am involved with, it will help you if you are considering starting a community garden yourself.
“Hi, neighbor!” After work Michelle Colussi’s husband sits on the front steps, attracting visitors young and old. This bit of neighborliness encourages relationships which come in handy — like bailing out one another’s houses when the nearby creek flooded.
We live in a time of tremendous political, environmental, and economic upheaval, which begs a profoundly important question: What should we do? We at Post Carbon Institute believe that, among other things, two areas of engagement are absolutely critical:
Understand the true nature of the challenges we as a society face. What are the underlying, systemic forces at play? What brought us to this place? Acting without this understanding is like putting a band-aid on a life-threatening injury.
Build community resilience. While we must also act in our individual lives and as national/global citizens, building community resilience is our greatest means of mitigating and adapting to the 21st century’s sustainability crises.
We’re offering this course — Think Resilience: Preparing Communities for the Rest of the 21st Century — to help you get started. You can either take it (consisting of 22 video lectures by Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, totaling about 4 hours) at your own leisure or participate in a six week long guided course, facilitated by Richard himself.
Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design / Angela Moreno-Long / 24 October 2016
Local food systems in rural communities can provide much more than just access to high quality food, food systems are linked to the economic vitality, sustainability and health of communities. The Iowa State University Community Design Lab produced an “Agricultural Urbanism” toolkit for revitalizing local food systems in order to create resilient communities, promote social equity and build financial sustainability. Don’t let the “urbanism” title fool you, agricultural urbanism is a process which can be used in cities and towns of any size across America–the key idea is integrating food systems and agriculture into the planning, design, and social fabric of communities. The Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit highlights pilot projects at multiple scales that use creative design solutions for local food systems.
There are hundreds of examples of how this might begin, such as community shops, development trusts, food assemblies (communities buying fresh food directly from local producers), community choirs and free universities (in which people exchange knowledge and skills in social spaces). Also time banking (where neighbours give their time to give practical help and support to others), transition towns (where residents try to create more sustainable economies), potluck lunch clubs (in which everyone brings a homemade dish to share), local currencies, Men’s Sheds (in which older men swap skills and escape from loneliness), turning streets into temporary playgrounds (like the Playing Out project), secular services (such as Sunday Assembly), lantern festivals, fun palaces and technology hubs.
Turning such initiatives into a wider social revival means creating what practitioners call “thick networks”: projects that proliferate, spawning further ventures and ideas that weren’t envisaged when they started. They then begin to develop a dense, participatory culture that becomes attractive and relevant to everyone rather than mostly to socially active people with time on their hands.
The mission statement of Seed Libraries (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Cindy Conner is to introduce a movement that keeps seeds in the hands of the people while revitalizing public libraries and communities. Seed libraries preserve and protect the genetic diversity of a harvest by keeping the seeds in the community. The members of the seed library will bring their own seeds back to the library to share with the rest of the members.
Seeds are basic to life. They have the potential to not only grow into food, flowers, bushes, and trees, but to reproduce themselves abundantly. Some cultures hold them sacred, as all cultures should. If we don’t value our seeds, we don’t value all of life surrounding us. Seeds connect us with our past and with our future.
What the Transition movement does incredibly well is small-scale experiments which are practical, which resonate with local people, which look as if they’re doable, and that can engage people at a practical and meaningful level. It connects up the big issues and the local issues and shows you that change can happen at a local level.
Our own survival depends on the stability of the intricate and complex interactions of various ecosystems within the biosphere. Keep pulling threads out of that tapestry and sooner or later it all unravels.
— Comment by Fred Magyar, RobertScribbler.com (02 March 2015)