Business, Society - Written by Paul Artiuch on Friday, August 28, 2009 16:28 - 6 Comments
Connecting to Grow
A grassroots revolution is taking place in cities across the world. Instead of buying produce that has travelled thousands of miles to get to the grocery store many people are opting to grow their own. Folks in rural areas and small towns have done this for years but now a number of urbanites are planting gardens as well.
Online tools are allowing aspiring growers to share tips, find help and even locate available land. People in the U.K., where allotment gardens have existed since WWII, are leading the way. An online community called “Landshare” lets users sign up as landowners, growers or helpers and connects them to others in their geographical area. To make things easy users can search using maps, by postal code or through a listing service. “People are keen on the sense of community” says Jane Lucy – Landshare’s producer. “If they have problems with pests or disease or want to share their results they have other interested people to talk to.”
People get involved for a variety of reasons – food security, environmental or even financial. With Landshare, over 40 000 people signed up in just over 4 months. Crucially landowners are embracing the concept with individuals as well as schools, companies, property developers, farmers and even the Church of England providing land.
Similar initiatives are being launched in North America. Hyperlocavore is an emerging community that is facilitating yard sharing, seed sharing and even produce exchanges across the continent. Smaller, community based sites in Toronto, Portland, Los Angeles and many other cities are creating their own platforms.
The land and yard sharing agreements typically don’t include financial exchanges. The growers simply share a part of their harvest in exchange for the land. Although, the abundance of produce in some areas is spurring the creation of secondary markets where items are not only traded but also bought and sold. In fact another community, called Veggie Trader, is facilitating these transactions through their online market.
While the rapid growth in urban gardening and community based agriculture is a promising trend it is unlikely to replace commercial farming anytime soon. It is also unlikely that people will be willing to give up the luxury of having all types of produce year round. However the local food movement, whether led by urban growers or proponents of the 100-mile diet, is playing an important educational role by teaching people about food and its impact on the environment. And should transportation costs ever increase, whether due to high oil prices or taxes, communities that have embraced the local diet will find themselves in a better position to cope.
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