I hope you find this worth the read. Let me preface this by saying that I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a crystal ball, and like all of us in these times I don’t know what the road ahead looks like. Whatever the road ahead looks like, we have opportunities to make collective changes that will reweave the fabric of our societies. These ideas are for us all to look at, to share, to envision and to work towards. Collaboration is key. We’ve been uncultured to “look out for number one”, to “get ours” we need to shift our thinking from me to we. This takes us forward to the place that we all know in our hearts is possible.
If you’re reading this, chances are that for the past few years, maybe longer you’ve been feeling this urge to form/find community. You want to find your tribe. Connect with like minds and feel like a part of something bigger than yourself.
We were always meant to live in community. It’s only in the past couple of generations that we’ve fallen away from it. If you look around at the world we have, you’ll see how damaging that has been. People are sad, sick, lost and lonely. The opposite of addiction is connection. We’ve been collectively suffering from an unnecessary amputation of our connection to our identities as true community. This has led us to seek to fill the emptiness with all sorts of unhealthy behaviors. Worse, we’ve been deluding ourselves that rising above each other in some sort of false construct like money or ego status someone solves the need for connection.
We all know something is wrong, so instead of speaking about that, let’s speak about what we can do to try to find our way back to ourselves and our connection.
Food connects us all. It’s led us into the darkness because we wanted cheap, easy and tasty over nourishing, uplifting and vital. Now food is beginning to lead us back to ourselves, back to the peaceful and energized state that leads us to a deeply satisfying way of being. It just makes sense that to create the shift forward to healthy planet, people and community we could follow the direction that food wants to lead us. Healthy food is simple, grown by following the patterns and methods that nature creates and is consumed with joy. If you have a garden you know this feeling already.
Here are some thoughts on moving forward:
1) Most people/families should be participating in food growing in some way. Whether it is planting food at the place where you live or in a community garden or in a private agreement with a homeowner, we all need to be able to be producers on some level. https://www.facebook.com/groups/south.florida.edible.gardening/ and https://www.meetup.com/South-Florida-Edible-Gardening-and-Sustainable-Living/ are tools that we’ve used in our community to help share knowledge and resources. This group grows gardeners as well as gardens and there are an astonishing number of helpful and knowledgeable people on it.
2) Businesses and municipalities need to find ways to work with people/small local businesses who want to grow food and need land. We’ve worked successfully with the Town of Davie to put in a Food Bank Garden in one of their leased properties as well as create a community garden with a food forest and a banana circle at a local park. The Town provided space, infrastructure and assisted in buying soil amendments and used town resources to get manure from a local farm for the garden.
3) We need to rethink value. Food has been severely undervalued in the quest for more and cheaper. Almost 75% of our food globally comes from just 10 crops. Not only is this a horrific vulnerability for the planet, but it shows how much of the “food” that is being consumed is lifeless with little of no nutritional value. The true cost of food should include valuing the people who produce it. We have a local pop-up market (currently virtual) https://www.facebook.com/events/518013039088403/ and we trade and barter a lot. When I have honey to sell, it’s $3 an ounce and I have a waiting list. People recognize that quality and source mean a lot. We work towards solving financial inequities by recognizing and paying people locally who can grow food. We also empower people to be able to grow their own so that they have access to quality food.
4) Community means taking care of the more vulnerable. Growing food for food banks is one way. Ideally, we could engage the community we are growing for and empower them to grow their own. This is a deeply inspiring example of what is possible: https://theurbanfarmingguys.com/ Making sure that potential waste gets redirected is another way to feed the more vulnerable. https://www.facebook.com/nowastegrowsocial/ partnered with https://endhunger.org/ in our area and has harvested thousands of pounds of backyard fruit that was then taken to food banks and homeless shelters. Every year the amount of food they harvest grows.
5) Small, local and sustainable businesses around food need to be created in large numbers. Micro lending or mutual aid collaboratives need to help fund these initiatives. Soil making, worm castings, compost collections, seed saving, fermenting, canning, jam making, beekeeping or whatever self-provisioning activities you enjoy can all be part of a new economy. This is a great overview of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR-YrD_KB0M&t=61s. We are launching a tiny micro lending program on June 1st to help seed some of these ventures here in our backyard. You can email me at email@example.com if you are interested in being on the leadership team, mentoring a loan recipient or donating to help us increase impact.
6) We need to know our community members and have a method of collaborating, group marketing, information sharing and connecting that enables us to have a collective presence so that we can find outlets for our goods and services and have easy to find/understand collective knowledge so that people look to learn can get data that is relevant to the area they live in. Gardening in New Jersey is totally different versus gardening in South Florida or New Mexico. We need to recognize that and bring things down to a local level. We’ve created http://www.growsoc.com to serve that need. It needs some work and we currently have an amazing volunteer that has committed to making it more user friendly, but it needs you to populate it. We can also always use volunteers to do social media and encourage their community to use it.
7) We need to rethink what food is. We have some fabulous “weeds” down here that are edible and grow prolifically. Dollar weed, purslane, Spanish needle and pellitory are just a few examples of great food that is free. Up north, burdock and dandelion abound. We should all know what is edible in our area and stop pulling it out and throwing it away. We should also stop spraying poisons on our lands. Encouraging wild areas instead of all lawn is a great way to discover what weeds want to grow in your area. Biodiversity of diet is one of the pillars to vibrant health. It’s also one of the pillars to planetary health. Everybody wins!
😎 Ultimately, rethinking housing is an important part. Co-Housing, with smaller personal living spaces but larger common spaces is my favorite model for sustainable living moving forward. This is a more effective land use and creates real community as well as the ability to incorporate wild areas and small farm areas within the community.
WHAT IS POSSIBLE: This may seem like a lot. If all the pieces that we listed above were in place, we’d have a very different life, economy and environment. I’m not suggesting that we all quit our jobs and go live off the land; we are a long, long way away from having a sustainable food system. If you’ve ever gardened, you’ve experienced that moment when all the individual seeds you planted suddenly become this beautiful, harmonious garden that teems with harmonious beauty and vibrance. Now is the time to plant the seeds. What of the above activities do you want to participate in? We all have a part in this and no part is more valuable than another. We love the worm, the sunflower and the bee with equal passion. 😊
I hope you share this. I hope it inspired you to think about what is possible. I hope that if you want to contribute in some way to the building of the things that will support this bigger picture, you will reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Mostly, I hope you find your way to the garden.