Monday, October 18, 2010

Farmville Gets Real

This article by Peter Smith discusses the new phenomenon of land sharing for gardening. He tells the story of Peter Rothbart, who started We Patch, a garden sharing social network in Seattle:

"Two years ago, Peter Rothbart was riding through Seattle on his bike. He came to a traffic circle. In the center was a 15-by-20-foot patch of soil where the city allows residents to garden. A man was standing there, looking down at a sorry-looking bunch of plants that had been run over and obliterated by a late-night driver. Later that evening, Rothbart went to a barbecue and overheard a woman talking about how she had an expansive lawn that she didn’t have time to take care of. “What if that guy could garden her land?” he said. “It just seemed like a good idea.”

So he started We Patch, one of a dozen new websites designed to connect wannabe gardeners with landowners who have available garden space. Let’s say you have an unused space that might make a good pumpkin patch, you offer it up on the website. If you’re a gardener without a garden, you can find available space—and contact the landowner. Sometimes, it leads to a rendezvous and a handshake agreement. Other times, gardeners and landowners spell out exactly how they’ll share produce and labor from a shared plot of land. It’s like a Craigslist devoted exclusively to gardeners—without the used car parts and hopefully with fewer missed connections."

There are now loads of similar sites across the country. I've written before about using public spaces to grow food for hungry people, but I wonder how we could use a network of shared private spaces to accomplish the same goal. Could organizations that are already working to feed people--shelters, food pantries, faith and community groups--start a network of land sharing that would allow them to feed people with local whole ingredients? Can we add another player to this equation? We're connecting land owners to gardeners. How do we connect gardeners to people who don't have access to fresh local food and don't have the skills or resources to grow it?

Brainstorm with me here, people...

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