photo courtesy of the authors
Here in Monroe and Alpine, Oregon, we have created a solution that is helping people learn about gardening, grow their own food and lift the burden on our local food-bank to provide for its ever increasing customers. We call it a “Sharing Garden”.
How it Works: Most people are familiar with the typical model of community gardening: multiple, separate plots, rented by the gardeners in which each person grows and harvests their own produce. In a Sharing Garden, the crops are grown collectively. The funds, materials, water and use of the lands have been donated, and participants come together one to three times a week to grow the food. Everyone shares in the harvest, the joys of learning to grow food together, and a genuine sense of community through joining in this meaningful activity. The extensive surplus is donated to people in need (through food banks and other charities.) No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown. This model is easily replicated anywhere there are vacant lots and people with enough gardening experience to oversee the project and does not require a large input of money to make it work.
Harvest Totals: In 2010 we were able to grow and give away over 3,500 pounds of food at a market-value of about $9,950. In 2011 we grew over 4,600 pounds at a local market-value of about $14,500. All of the harvest was shared amongst volunteers, our local food bank, the senior lunch program in Monroe and a local gleaner's group.
As of spring 2012, we have two garden-sites in cultivation. The original garden, in Alpine, Oregon is 100 feet x 110 feet. It was started in 2009. Our second site is in Monroe, Oregon, It is 110 feet x 170 feet and was started in 2010. The two gardens total approximately 2/3 of an acre.
Benefits of a “Sharing Garden”
There are many benefits to growing food in the sharing model. You can:
Grow the maximum amount of food: Sharing Gardens use the garden space more efficiently. There are fewer pathways between garden rows and all of the same kind of plants can be grown together.
Water more efficiently: Plants can be grouped together with similar watering requirements.
Manage weeds and pests more easily: In a typical community garden setting, herbicide or pesticide applications in one plot can lead to a mass exodus of the offending bugs or weeds into adjacent plots. This can lead to a mini “arms race” between garden plots to bolster plants against pests. In a Sharing Garden, if pests/weeds appear, they can be managed selectively without the need for ever-accelerating methods of eradication.
Save pure seeds: Many plants will cross with their neighbors, or hybridize. This means that, in a typical community garden neighboring gardeners would need to coordinate so their seed-stock doesn't cross with neighbors. In a Sharing Garden, you can plan your crops to keep strains from crossing and save enough seed to last for a few years till you get around to growing that particular variety again.
Build community: Though some community gardens have regular work parties and social gatherings, the emphasis is on each gardener doing his own thing. In a Sharing Garden, the focus is on cooperation and sharing a common goal. Having a meaningful shared purpose builds great camaraderie.
Share knowledge: Sharing Gardens become a place where gardeners can share their experience with each other. We garden organically, using no chemical pesticides or herbicides. We rely on heavy mulching and fertilizer derived from compost and other natural, local materials. We also have an extensive seed-saving program. Participants are also learning about food preservation, gleaning and other ways of increasing local food security.
- Live more lightly on the planet: An additional benefit of this style of gardening is that we use salvaged material whenever possible. This keeps these materials out of burn-piles and the land-fill while providing new life for tools, leaves, grass clippings and building supplies. By encouraging people to share their surplus we build a tangible sense of community and networks of relationship that can be drawn from in times of crisis.
Help local wildlife: Each of our gardens is designed to create habitat for local beneficial wildlife as we believe it is important to "share" the earth beyond our human family.
Learn more about Alpine and Monroe's Sharing Gardens
See our site with extensive info on organic gardening, seed-saving and starting your own Sharing Garden
Watch a video interview with the founders of the the Sharing Gardens
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