Image credit: Peak Moment TV
From communities growing free food to Secret Freegan's dumpster diving exploits, the idea of providing free food to those in need is not new to the sustainable food movement. Community gardens are often held up as a great way of fighting hunger and connecting people with their food, but one couple in Oregon is promoting an interesting variation on this idea—the "sharing garden".Sharing Gardens Tended Communcally
While many community gardens offer separate plots for gardeners to rent, or sometimes ask for membership or other dues, Chris Burns and Llyn Peabody in Alpine, Oregon are promoting the idea of a "sharing garden" as an alternative. Rather than separating production into different beds, the Alpine Sharing Garden is tended, planted and harvested communally—with everyone who contributes being free to harvest what they need, and any excess being donated to local food banks.
In some ways, as is often the case, this is as much a question of terminology as it is practice. I have actually come across many community gardens that operate in a similar fashion. Nevertheless, specifically promoting this model for community gardening—and giving it a name—is going to help folks to share their experiences of both successes and challenges.
The Pros and Cons of Communal Gardening
As the interview illustrates, the Sharing Garden model presents many advantages—not least to build community, and to benefit from "economies of scale" (There aren't 15 people all planting 3 squash plants), but it also provides challenges of communication and coordination. Luckily, say Burns and Peabody, these challenges are easily overcome with careful forethought and planning. Perhaps my favorite quote comes from Burns on what the Sharing Garden teaches us about human nature:
People often say "you must be such good people to do this". We seem to have forgotten that we are all good people.
More on Community Gardening
When Neighbors remove Fences and Start Gardens (Video)
Parking Strip becomes Garden with Free Produce for Neighbors (Video)
Communities Get Together to Grow Free Food