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Cultivating Community (and delicious food)

By Kelsey Abbott |
You don't need a backyard garden-or even a backyard-to enjoy fresh local produce all summer long. Check out these tips.


Summer-the unofficial season of yumminess-is right around the corner. You probably know where you'll get your ice cream this summer, but where will you get your fresh, local produce this season?

The answer's easy if you have the time to go to your neighborhood farmers' market every week or the skills, time and space to grow your own food. But what about those of us who don't have the time, the space or the green thumb necessary to tend our own backyard vegetable patch?

Well, if it's space you lack, a community garden may be just the thing for you. A community garden at its simplest level is a plot of land gardened by a group of people.

For novice gardeners (or those new to organic gardening), a community garden can be a great place to learn from experienced gardeners. Some community gardens really focus on education. For instance, the Coppell Community Garden in Coppell, Texas offers public classes on rain collection, organic lawn care and vegetable gardening 101 while the Yarmouth Community Garden in Yarmouth, Maine offers a garden explorers program for children ages 4-12.

Community gardens do much more than grow delicious organic food and teach people about gardening. They also bring people together, sometimes in rather unusual ways.

At the Urban Ministry Community Garden in Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, homeless people and people with homes garden side-by-side. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, you can garden in someone's yard or offer a section of your yard to a plot-less gardener through the Los Angeles Community Garden Council's new yard sharing program.

So what is your first step to finding the right garden for you?

  1. Check the American Community Gardening Association's webpage to find local gardens in your area.
  2. For advice on starting you're a community garden in your neighborhood, visit CommunityGarden.org.

If you don't have the time to devote to gardening on your own or just don't want to get your hands dirty, check out a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). When you join a CSA, you buy a share of the farmer's harvest and help support a local family farm. As a CSA member you'll receive a package of freshly-picked vegetables every week throughout the growing season. Some CSAs pre-package shares while others work on a debit system, allowing members to choose their own produce.

CSAs support local agriculture so what you can get really depends on where you live. (Sorry, Mainers you won't be getting lemons any time soon.) But some CSAs offer more than produce. Many offer eggs and flowers for additional fees and some even offer meat. The most unusual CSA, however, may be Piedmont Biofuels. As a member of this so-called "Coop," you can purchase biodiesel or learn how to make your own using Piedmont's equipment.

Some CSAs may still have shares available for this season. To find one close to you, visit LocalHarvest.org.



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