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How to grow an edible neighborhood.

You've experienced the joys of producing food for yourself and your family on your own property. Now think outside the fence and consider extending your growing area beyond your own lot by combining your efforts with your neighbors to create an Edible Neighborhood!

There are many benefits to cooperative growing, here are just a few:

* More Space/Scalability: Imagine being able to grow food throughout your neighborhood instead of just in your own small plot. Only one neighbor really needs Kiwi vines, and some sites are better suited for specific plants/plant communities.

* Cooperative Buying: Get discounts on gardening supplies by buying in bulk and sharing costs of materials, hauling, and labor.

* Built in Support Network: Going on vacation and need someone to look after your plants? Like to socialize while gardening and get your children involved? A community effort provides the support you need.

* More Opportunities and Micro climates: Maybe you don't get much sun, but your neighbor might. Together you can harness the different resources that each person has.

* More Flowering Plants: With the entire neighborhood growing there will be more pollinators to help plants thrive and reproduce.

How to get started:

1. Arrange a meeting with your neighbors. Choose an organizer/facilitator and a designer/communicator. Create a contact sheet that documents participating neighbors and the addresses of the shared garden spaces. Talk about what you will grow, what the gardens will look like, and who will be responsible for different tasks.

2. Create an Assets Checklist. Brainstorm about what resources each neighbor can share, i.e Money, Skills, Seeds, Plants, Garden Knowledge, Space, Tools, Time, Sun, and Storage. This is a great opportunity to learn about your neighbor's skills and interests.

3. Consider creating an Edible Neighborhood Agreement. This should include the following:

* A list of everyone's intentions and expectations in terms of staying in touch, meetings, end of the year clean up and end state for the gardens, etc.

* A chart of access times for each shared space; when each neighbor is okay with having others on their property.

* A list of planned vacation/travel times when special plans will be needed.

* Maps or descriptions of each garden space and where important elements are located such as water hookups, tools, etc.

* Parking and security considerations.

* Common sense boundaries such as behavioral standards, neatness, common responsibilities, etc.

* An exit plan--agreements on how and when to end the arrangement if desired.

* Risks and liabilities.

4. Most importantly, have fun with it! Get your children and teens involved, organize work parties and harvest celebrations. The practice of growing food together can lead to growing your community.

If you live in a very urban area or don't know your neighbors well, there are some great online resources for connecting gardeners with drive and know-how to home owners with property to share. Consider creating a Meetup group or posting on Craigslist to find other like-minded individuals willing to combine their efforts. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.

Rae Russell works for Cascadia Edible Landscapes, a Seattle, Washington based landscaping company that specializes in assisting individuals, communities, and developers transform underutilized spaces into places of food production and community growth.

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Share Your Yard, in Natural Life Magazine, March/April 2010
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Author:Russell, Rae
Publication:Natural Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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