Providing tools and support to community members to create local initiatives that build local capacity and leadership, increase environmental sustainability, and foster greater livability and vitality.
Community gardens are sprouting across the country. Whether smack in the middle of an urban jungle or in a low-density rural location, people are coming together and building foundations on food.
Want to start a community garden? Check out the American Community Gardening Association’s “How To” and their RebelTomato step-by-step approach. Or get inspired by some great organizations like Growing Power, a national nonprofit working to support community food system development.
Other options for spreading awareness and increasing access to food are through food mapping and gleaning. Do you live in an area abundant in fruit production? Follow the Urban Gleaners initiative in Portland, Oregon, where residents realized their abundance in fruit and food as well as the growing need to alleviate hunger in their community, so they created a way to address both. Check out their creative means of gleaning for some inspiration and ideas.
Or check out the Hood River County community, also in Oregon, which organized The Hood River County Fruit Loop to address the decline of the Red Delicious apple and the rise in fruit imports in the early 1990s. City Fruit is another great resource. If you are fruit mapping or doing some gleaning, consider entering your information into the City Fruit database to build and strengthen the national map. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a great overview document on gleaning and food recovery. And check out Slow Movement’s “gleaning to reconnect at the local level” for tips on what communities around the world are doing with gleaning.
Fallen Fruit lends a great example in creative community engagement around fruit in Los Angeles, California. The project began as an art collaboration looking at “fallen fruit” as a lens to view urban space, ideas of neighborhood, and new forms of citizenship and community, but it later branched out into community jam-making, nighttime neighborhood fruit tours, community tree planting, and more. Check out how communities have artfully mapped their fruit at Fallen Fruit’s maps.
Crop Mobs provide another creative way to get connected to local food. Crop mobs started in North Carolina as “primarily a group of young, landless, and wannabe farmers who come together to build and empower communities by working side by side.” Now sprouting across the country, local crop mobs can quickly summon willing helpers to pitch in with everything from barn raising to apple harvesting.
If you are not into “organized” gardening or food system development, there are many other options to strengthen your food system. Guerilla Gardening is a way to work undercover and behind the scenes while encouraging more edible landscaping, increased food consciousness, and the beautification of public spaces such as curbs, empty lots, and struggling parks and garden beds. Check out how to, the Guerilla Gardening book, and the national guerilla gardening index to see projects and get ideas.