Planting a New Normal: What If Our Streets Were Lined with Community Gardens and Fruit Trees?

in gardening •  last year


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I planted a small front yard garden with a sign, "Food is Free Project." There was plenty of space behind my privacy fence to garden, but it seemed like a cool idea to do it out front, so I just went for it.

It quickly amazed me how many more neighbors I started to connect with who were walking their dog or strolling by. Though I felt vulnerable in the front yard, it was also kind of magical.



Something as simple as a garden created a real human connection that would have otherwise not happened if I were gardening in the backyard. As time went on, I started to imagine how to share that connection with others in my community. What would it be like to live on a block where that was normal to have a front yard garden?


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Though it seemed crazy, I put a call out to friends and we had a launch party, sharing our vision with the community over a potluck and local music. After sharing the vision of front yard community gardens, over 100 people from around town offered to host a front yard garden.

A bit overwhelmed, I thought if we prove the idea on one block as a pilot, we could open-source the idea and inspire and teach others how to make it happen. We'd share our mistakes and successes and quicken the learning curve for others.


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Within 5 weeks you were in the minority on our block of Joe Sayers Ave if you didn't host a front yard community garden. Neighbors on my block were meeting for the first time in 20 years, connecting over the new front yard gardens lining our street.

It can feel overwhelming trying make a difference in the world, but we can each focus on our immediate sphere of influence. When the power of our small actions unite, the whole world is changed one piece at a time. Have you started a front yard or community garden? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. :)


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The Food is Free Project is an open-source grassroots movement to grow food in public places and share it with the community. What began as an experiment in the front yard has evolved into a world-wide community.

Learn How To Start a Food is Free Project: http://foodisfreeproject.org


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Thanks for following @foodisfree and sharing the vision!

Onward and Upward,
John

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This is truly a beautiful thing. I live in a small town, and just this morning I saw a lady put up a similar sign, and in her front yard too. This is how life should be. Powerful stuff. Thank you. Upvoted, and RESTEEMED.

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Love it! It would be awesome to see a photo of the front yard garden if you find yourself nearby it again soon. Thanks for sharing the message!

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absolutely, it is actually just a block over from me. Will post tomorrow.

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Awesome! Looking forward to it. Have a great night!

I love this project. Many years ago I was an environmental and community activitist in a big city in the UK and this would have been such a great project there. Are there are any Food Is Free projects in the UK yet?

Some time ago I moved to a homestead in rural west Wales so we don't have a front yard. But I am trying to produce a surplus of food to give to neighbours and friends just to connect.

May the FoodIsFree project live long and prosper 😊

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Thank you for your message! There are definitely some Food is Free Projects in the UK but you should totally start one in your community! It looks a bit different in each area but it's all about growing and sharing food with others, spreading the abundance and inspiration.

I'd love to stay in touch if I can offer any advice or brainstorm ideas along the way. Happy homesteading! Just followed ya. Onward and upward!

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Is there a website that gives details of the UK Food Is Free projects?

I don't actually live near a town and my nearest neighbour is a mile away ! So it would need a different angle to do something similar here. Ideas welcome.

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Since the project is open-source it's hard to keep track of all of their locations since some have a social media presence and others are mostly offline. I really want to get the projects onto Steemit so we can be in closer communication. I know there is a Food is Free Bristol and definitely a few others. Even in rural areas, just starting to grow a little extra and sharing it at community events, church or any kind of gathering could inspire many. Just start imagining of ways to be growing and sharing a little extra and start small. Things can evolve over time. :)

Excellent work John, it's a good thing your town's government didn't try to stop your movement of front yard gardens. I've heard of others having zoning or permit issues (which is crazy) Good work sir!

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Thank you! It is frustrating to see some of the city governments resist front yard gardens and fruit trees. I've heard of some projects in Australia where the city came by and cut down many established fruit trees that neighbors has cultivated over the years.

Though these stories are really upsetting, I truly believe they inspire even more fruit trees and gardens to be planted in solidarity. We're all in this together. Let's open source everything! :)

I cannot believe that within 5 weeks, and 5 weeks only, if you didn't have a front yard garden you were the odd man out, that is incredible John! You are a super-powered organizing champion!! :) :) :)

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It was pretty wild how quickly things came together. Many hands certainly make light work! When you feel the call, you gotta just go for it. What's the worst that could happen? In this case, things really started to flow and we rode the momentum. Looking back, it is wild how organic much of it unfolded due to the help of awesome friends and neighbors.

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Are there any videos of a walk down your block?

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I definitely have some footage, I just need to hunt through my external hard drive. Been meaning too but we're living in our camper right now and my hard drives are packed away. It's on my to do list though! You can get a taste of it from this video that the University of Texas newspaper filmed:

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oooooh YAYNESS!! Thank you so much, and I can totally relate to the packed away hard drives situation, most of ours are still all the way across Canada in storage LOLOLOL :) :) Just think of them as future Steemit treasures <3 <3 <3 <3

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Haha. Nice! Great future content for reminiscing! :)

When we lived in the city this happened when we started using the better soil in the front to grow veggies. The squash ran up over the front hedge and the squash that grew along the sidewalk was taken by people walking by. I was delighted!

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Nice! That's so cool. Do you have any photos of your front yard squash garden? I bet you certainly inspired your neighbors! Just followed ya, great to connect.

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This was years ago. I think our neighbors thought we were strange...sharing food with others and not having a manicured lawn out front.
Now we live 1/2 step from heaven on a large piece of property near the top of a hill and we have to deliver our fruit, vegetables and even some of our starts because germination was so great this year. We have been given stewardship of this beautiful place so we share as much as we can. God is Good!
Here is a post I wrote that has some pictures
https://steemit.com/homesteading/@bchick/an-un-root-cellar

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Beautiful to hear! Strange is great. :) Normal is boring anyway. It sounds like y'all have been on quite an exciting journey. Things also evolved for me and my fiance. We first lined our block in Austin, TX in gardens back in 2012 and our rental property evolved into an urban farm. In 2014 our property went up for sale so that took us on a journey to the Ozarks in Arkansas to farm and now we've finally landed outside Asheville, NC.

My fiance and I are currently living in our travel trailer as we start to plan our homestead. Great to be connected with you, looking forward to learning more about what y'all are up to!

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Yes, isn't this sharing wonderful. Almost as good as sharing real food!
So many people here are from more southern climates so I have to take that into consideration. We are in New Hampshire so the growing season and soil are quite different.
We do have a peach tree that is loaded down this year, and lots of apples; we may even get a few almonds this year.

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Nice! Do you know what variety of peach it is? I'm guessing y'all have a pretty late final frost up there so it must be a late bloomer, eh? Nice on the apples and soon-to-be almonds! Have y'all planted any pears or cherries?

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I do not know the variety off hand but this is the second year for a big harvest. They all come at once so we may try making peach juice and dehydrating some for granola. We should be able to harvest them in July.
We also have planted cherries, blueberries and raspberries that we can begin eating soon, plums, apricots, and pears that we hope to get a harvest from this year. We also have 2 big walnut trees...someday.
A couple of years ago we were able to give away 2 tons of apples and applesauce. This year after all these tress were blossoming we had a late freeze with snow a few miles away on Mothers Day but I think we were blessed somehow and the trees all seem to have some fruit on them.
We even got some watermelon and cantaloupe last year. The weather plays such a big part in the harvest.

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Wow! Sounds like you have quite the abundance and lots more on the way. What a gift to be able to share so much. I'm sure everyone who received has been so grateful for you! Glad to be connected. :)

This is exactly the idea we all need to get behind. Imagine if this was a global effort. ..
The very essence of caring about our fellow man. If we could also do neighborhood composting to help support the gardens for all to enjoy would be exponential in teaching our youth about sustainability and compassion.
Two lessons that are sadly overlooked these days.
Thank you, and god bless.

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Nice! We're totally on the same page. Great call on the community composting! My neighbors and I first lined our block in gardens in 2012 and I started blogging about it a bit online. Six months later I got an email from a lady in Tasmania who wanted to start a Food is Free Project over there. At that moment, it was clear it had to go open-source so I started more actively encouraging others to start a Food is Free Project, growing and sharing food.

It looks a little different in each city of course, but we've started a network of like-minded people making things happen and it's inspiring to learn the ideas people come up with. Now over 350 cities around the world have started Food is Free Projects and my goal is to start getting them to connect here on Steemit and join this beautiful community.

Great to connect! Just followed ya.

First of all, this is amazing! Wow. I applaud you, it's hard to take a risk and put yourself out there like you did so good for you. I just love this idea so much (the Town I live in has a similar program going on called 'Incredible Edibles' and it's the same idea: gardens in municipal spaces and anyone is free to help themselves). I would love to see this in people's yard too though (and a bonus, it means less grass!).

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Awesome! I love the Incredible Edible projects. I'm a big fan of our global consciousness and how we're all connected which excites me to learn about other projects connecting people through food. Great to connect with you!

What a totally brilliant idea! I'm in it! For 14 years we had a homestead, but as we got older, it was to hard to manage. We now live in a modernized cave house and are growing our food vertically on the terrace. It is true that the neighbours just love our garden and now I will put out your "Food is free project" sign! Thank you for this great idea and the blog, I'm off to your website now! Love to everybody in the "Food is free project"! @antje

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Great to connect, @antje! That's amazing you had a homestead for 14 years. I bet it was an amazing experience. I'm just now starting out on our land with my fiance after being a renter jumping around from one property to the next. Excited to finally put in the time and work and enjoy the fruits of our harvest. Great to be connected! I'm excited to get more of the Food is Free Project from around the world to share their journey on Steemit so we can all learn from each other. Stay in touch!

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Yes, it was an amazing experience and when one is younger, hard work is ok. But now we are older and had to downsize as we are thinking of looking after ourselves for the rest of our lives! That is very important to us! Will stay in touch! Love to all!

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I totally understand that. With the power of community, we can line our neighborhoods with fruit trees, perennial food and share the harvest. Not everyone has to do physical labor. People can contribute time and energy sorting seeds, starting seedlings, or even cooking for potlucks or gatherings. We all have something contribute to the world! :)

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Indeed, so it is! And although we still feel young and can do most of the things we want to do now, maybe in years to come we can participate in the different ways you outlined and like that everybody in the street is integrated! Such a great concept!

Great idea! Inspiring. Love that you are creating a community through the power of healthy living.

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Thank you! Food really is one of our great common denominators and I've learned that working in the soil with others makes all of our differences fall by the wayside.

The power of a community! Isnt that fantastic!?

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It's so amazing! When our powers combine, anything is possible! :) Just followed ya.

That's such a great idea. I like that you brought your neighbors together. We live in a society where people don't connect as neighbors anymore so I love stuff like this that helps people to connect. A friend of mine started a college community garden where they have a piece of land on our local college campus. Students can join and get a piece of land to grow plants on. Everyone shares food. It's a great program.

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That's awesome to hear about that college community garden. I wish something like that was available when I was in school. All humans should learn some basics about how to grow and prepare food. It seems more and more schools are incorporating school gardens which I find wonderful!

Great post and fantastic initiative my friend!

Thank you for sharing this brilliant example with us!

Hope you are having a great day!

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Thanks so much for sharing the kind words. Make it a great day! Just followed ya.

Love the idea,

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Thanks for sharing the vision! Just followed ya. :) Enjoy the day!

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Thank you and am also following.

I want to echo all the other comments on here --- This is an incredible story. Have you heard about The Urban Farming Guys in KC? They are doing some incredible work revitalizing a community through farming.

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Thanks for the kind words! The Urban Farming Guys are so inspiring! They are really making waves and I Iook forward to seeing how their efforts continue to evolve. Just followed ya!

People need to realise that food isn't only available in shiny packaging. Knowledge is power yet ignorance is rife unfortunately.

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I know right! Individually shrink wrapped cucumbers and bell peppers leave my head spinning...why?!? More and more folks are planting their first seeds and gardens which excites me to see. :)

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Indeed, good times ahead :)

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The best is yet to come!

Love it! <3 <3 Great read :)

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Thank you!!!! :)

This post received a 2.4% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @foodisfree! For more information, click here!

This is great. Balloon aid idea for NK.

Congratulations @foodisfree - This post was one of the most shared posts on the web from the Steemit website during the past week. You were featured in my report, here.

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Awesome to hear. Thanks for the update! Enjoy the day. :)

How wonderful and inspiring! Thank you for such an uplifting post. Following you. I hope you all get bumper crops.

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Great to be connected. Here's to abundance for all! Followed ya. :)

Thank you for the great article! This post has been featured in this week's issue of the Weekly Homesteading Newsletter!

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Thank you so much for sharing the vision! Looking forward to being connected. Make it an awesome day. :)

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My pleasure and have a wonderful day!