As gardening interest blooms, neighbors find a way to help each other.
With the COIVD-19 pandemic exposing the vulnerabilities of our global supply systems —trade corridors shutting down, migrant workers stuck at borders, large scale farms tilling crops back into the soil and dumping milk—more people are finding the need for greater food resilience. As bread became hard to find, flour began disappearing from grocery shelves. When yeast disappeared, those with flour (or grain and a grinder) began growing sourdough starters.
Now people are finding out how to access locally grown and produced food and learning to grow food for themselves.
No question: COVID has been a wake-up call that rearranges our values, placing health, family and food at the top of the list. Collectively the human consciousness seems to be asking: Where does our food come from?
Where to start?
One swipe at your favorite web search engine can deliver a deluge of information to support gardening efforts. But farming skills have been handed down through generations from the dawn of civilization. A mentor for guidance or inspiration can make all the difference.
So if you know Barbarella Roller, you just give her a call.
Barbarella spent much of her life farming in California. She now lives in Rose Park, building the biggest art projects and working on an urban homestead.
As spring emerged and the community hunkered down, the calls began. “If someone reaches out to me, I feel compelled to help,” Barbarella says.
With the amount of interest on the rise, Barbarella set about creating a structure for neighborhood networks much like the one she has with her family in Rose Park.
Perhaps an elderly neighbor has the land and knowledge but needs labor support. Another neighbor has tools that need repair. Down the street, a family has no gardening knowledge, but plenty of hands to dig in the soil.
What has emerged is the Neighborhood Resiliency Initiative, an effort to increase the local fresh food supply by creating networks in neighborhoods that share the resources needed to grow food. The idea is that when someone takes the time to share their knowledge, follow-through and pride are often the result.
A steering committee was formed. With pandemic orders in place, many offered their extra time. Michael Cundick, Utah Permaculture Guild and Green Party candidate for Salt Lake County Mayor, joined the effort. Michael started a neighborhood network where he lives in Cottonwood Heights, installing gardens in yards near his home.
The steering committee created simple ways to encourage connections and soon after, their website was launched. In the first 24 hours, it had 600 visits. You can sign up as a garden mentor, landowner or gardener, volunteer to organize information on spreadsheets or offer site assessments. You can download a flyer to circulate in your neighborhoods to identify resources that may be close at hand. The Initiative will make the connections within these neighborhoods. (Note: The group is strictly practicing the recommended physical distancing and sanitation precautions related to the pandemic.)
“By pooling resources and using land already available, imagine the amount of food that can be grown!” says Barbarella.
Planting a garden signals hope for the future. And yes, you can change the world with something as small as seed. Happy growing!
Kim Angeli is a local foods enthusiast and a board member of Slow Food Utah.