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Grow for Change in Your Community

| 6/1/2011 12:44:53 PM

A portrait of Susy, the author of Chiots Run.I grew up with parents that grew a lot of the food we ate because that's the only way they could afford healthy food. When they could afford to buy food they staring purchasing more at the grocery store and the size of their garden shrank. While growing your own is kind of posh in urban area, this hipness has yet to trickle down into some rural areas, especially among the younger generations. People in our area still have the view that if they can afford to buy it they will, growing your own is for people who can't afford to buy food at the grocery store and the few random hippies that talk about something called "organic". In some areas all across the country it's even outlawed by home owners associations to grow edible food in your yard (we're not allowed to have chickens).

Strawberries in Raised Bed by Chiots Run

It's kind of funny because when we started to add edible plants to our gardens here at Chiot's Run my neighbor came over to see what I was doing. When she saw all the red ripe juicy strawberries she asked where I got the plants. The next year they cut down a bunch of trees and put in a strawberry bed and a small garden. When I started growing tomatoes, cabbages and onions in my yard, they doubled the size of their garden and added corn, cucumbers and beans. When I added another garden on one of side of my driveway, they increased the size of their garden once again and added a small orchard as well. I also noticed that their friends down the street added some tomatoes and broccoli to their front flowerbed. I notice that every year a few more people in the homes around me are putting in small edible gardens in their front yard. I'm happy knowing that I helped break the ice or pave the way to make them feel comfortable doing so. I guess all they needed was someone go ahead of them, perhaps help to break the stigma that surrounds the growing of food in your yard. It's nice to see my neighbors getting into edible gardening and being excited about it. My neighbor across the street was even telling me she started canning for the first time last summer and she's retired.

Planting by Chiots Run

Growing your own can open doors with your neighbors, especially if you take them homegrown tomatoes and veggies or eggs from your chickens. Growing some of your food out in the open can also encourage others to do the same. Perhaps your neighbors have always wanted to, but feared what people would say if they saw a few tomatoes growing on the front porch. In some areas growing your own will make you the talk of the beauty parlor (yep I've been told I'm frequently the topic of conversation there) and in other places it's what everyone is doing. If you live in an area where it's not common and people look down on it - grow out in the open, put your garden in your front yard and talk liberally about the joy of growing your own. And don't be afraid to talk about how much money you save either! Be the one everyone is talking about so others can start to feel comfortable doing it as well. Sometimes all it takes is one person to hold up the torch so everyone can see!

What's the Grow Your Own climate like in your area? Is it looked down upon or is it the thing to do?   

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, maple sugaring, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves, Not Dabbling in Normal, Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter

Dave Larson
8/6/2011 4:13:10 PM

Hi Susy, Love your blog topic. Barbara and I live in the AZ desert and have a garden that produces well over 50% of what we eat. (more if we get a good crop from the orchard). Nearly all our neighbors garden and there is an extremely active community garden just a few miles away. We are also fortunate in the fact that our local grocer offers locally grown fruits and vegetables in season as does our local farmer's market. Love to have you see what we're doing in our garden - check We are trying to send the message that simple and frugal living is good for health, planet, and budget. Have a joyful day in the garden!

Nebraska Dave
6/1/2011 8:01:05 PM

Susy, I started with one raised 4X8 garden bed for two years, then I expanded it to three, and now four years later I have five with two more on the drawing board. Each time I expanded I too heard about another neighbor that's growing food in the backyard. I haven't been brave enough to plant in the front yard yet, but two years ago I did have an 8 foot cherry tomato growing in a container on my front patio. I grew lettuce for the first time ever. Two days ago I munched down a salad from the garden. Unfortunately I didn't know if I could even grow lettuce so I only planted enough for one salad. I will definitely be planting more in the fall. I tried radishes but the soil must have been too nitrogen rich and they grew big huge tops and no radishes. I pulled them all out today and am thinking about replanting. The tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, and cucumbers are well on the way to harvest. All are healthy and growing fast. My ace in the hole to catch the interest of the neighborhood is my automated watering system. Three of the five beds are watered by a gravity fed system from a 425 gallon tank that gets filled by rain water. It's been a long two years but it's finally functional. The neighbors just never know what is going on next in the backyard of Nebraska Dave. Have a great neighborhood garden leading day.

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