Dig It: Growing Greens, Creating Community, and Feeding Families

by Sarah Henry on July 3, 2009 · 10 comments

in community gardens,growing greens

Chris Geiger comes from a long line of gardeners. He grew up eating out of the family garden in Ohio and was eager to replicate the experience for his own daughter. But his backyard in Oakland, California is small and shaded. What to do? The resourceful dad simply sent out a request for land in exchange for labor on a neighborhood list-serve in time to till the soil this past spring.

He got lots of offers (he says he spied on neighbors’ yards via Google Earth) but he opted for the first, from homeowner Emily Bezar, who had location, location, location on her side. Emily’s rear yard is big, gets loads of sun, and she lives around the corner from Chris, his wife Madeleine, and their daughter Gwendolyn. A perfect match.

digit.growgreens.chris&emily

Chris and Emily are delighted with how their backyard experiment turned out. The plot has produced chard, beans, tomatoes, basil, squash, lettuces, and cucumbers.  “It was great to find Chris, who offered skills and expertise I didn’t have,” says Emily, who lives with her son Noah.  “And it’s wonderful to share the bounty with another family. It’s so satisfying to watch a garden grow rapidly before your very eyes. And Chris has an aesthetic sensibility; I love the splashes of color among the greens. I don’t know why more people don’t do this. It’s a wonderful way to cultivate food and community.”

Such partnerships are sprouting elsewhere. Sunset magazine reports this month on urbangardenshare.org, the brainchild of Amy Pennington, who runs an edible garden business in Washington state, and designer Gannon Curran. The site connects Seattle homeowners who have green space with keen gardeners who have none. Chime in if you know of similar efforts in other places.

This is the first in a series of posts on innovative ways folks grow greens and forage for food in the urban jungle. Check back for more profiles, ideas, and resources in future posts.

digit.chris&emily.gardenPhotos: Sarah Henry


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Silas July 3, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Sarah and Chris – this is so cool – why didn’t I think of that!

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Jenny M July 5, 2009 at 6:39 am

Chris – You are an awesome resourceful dad. xo

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Romney Steele July 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm

great idea! and love how it cultivates community while also feeding families (multiple, at that). Nani

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amy pennington July 13, 2009 at 10:12 pm

THANK YOU for your shout out on Urban Garden Share. It’s been a really fun project for us all. We’ve received a lot of emails from folks down by you and we are considering/trying to expand to the Bay area. I will keep you posted when we can make this happen!

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Sarah Henry July 31, 2009 at 8:54 am

Just discovered another resource for green-thumbed urbanites who want to team up with someone who has an under-utilized yard. It’s called Sharing Backyards, http://www.sharingbackyards.com/, and connects folks in a growing list of cities including Cleveland, Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles. Can’t find such a service in your area? The site offers advice about how to start your own. Any other online resources like this that people know about? Do tell.

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