When I was doing the research for my thesis on home based food growing in Sheffield UK, I came across many creative solutions to the problem of a shortage of land to grow on in the urban setting. I saw guerilla gardening, where small public plots are taken over and planted with food crops. I worked with the abundance project to harvest neglected fruit trees all over the city and distribute the fruit to those in need. I met a fellow who, through perseverance and against much resistance, got a community gardening project going on his housing estate for the residents. I heard of a couple who, in exchange for some produce, kept the veggie garden of an elderly neighbor ticking over when he took ill. I saw people in all economic levels working with their neighbors to support each others efforts to grow food. I myself was given a composter and gave in return a water butt, strawberry plants, broadbean seedlings and pots and compost. Here in Bermuda I've met a fellow who works for an edible landscaping company that encourages homeowners to plant food in their gardens and runs agriculture camps for the youth in the summer.
I've just read about a wonderful idea in Maryland whereby folks sign up to share space in their backyards to a type of community supported agriculture, a kind of a distributed grid of food. The article by Greg Plotkin is over on Sustainable Food,
"The Murray Hill Row-by-Row Project has no farm; instead, it uses the member’s yards as thefarming space, hence the term "lawnshare." Each member grows one or two crops in their yard, and what grows is shared with all the members. I organize who grows what, grow the seedlings, help members prepare their garden plot, help the members plant the seeds or seedlings, look over the crops and organize the harvest, which includes picking, dividing and distributing.
The members themselves give up lawn space and commit to daily watering and keeping an eye on the plants. Members find it a lot easier to grow a lot of one crop, rather than have a full kitchen garden of their own. From the relative ease of growing one crop and the small weekly fee, members enjoy a full variety of vegetables and a more developed sense of community."
Great Post Robb!
In Boulder, Colorado there is a movement afoot called "Neighborhood Supported Agriculture" where a farmer uses a number of donated yards (either front or back) to grow food. It includes share members and also sell at the local Farmers Market. I am part of an Advisory Board to help this concept reach financial viability and begin to get it out to the rest of the country. Growing our food close to home is an important part of relocalization. - Zev
I've heard of another model that uses suburban yards in a similar manner, I think in Marin County, but uses a different financial model. The company operates like a typical landscaping company but alongside the billable amenity horticulture they plant food for sale through a normal CSA model. Apparently the homeowners can also receive some produce depending on the negotiated contract. Unfortunately I don't remember where I found this information, over a year ago, and so cannot provide a link to it.