Thursday, January 8, 2009

Community Gardens: Good or Bad?

I read an article this morning that got me to thinking about community gardens. While I can see it working in some situations, I think that the population as a whole is simply too greedy for it to work in every community. Everyone wants that first ripe tomato, but who is going to get it? The first one to spot it, even if that person didn't actually plant it or care for the plant. Even if it is a co-op garden and everyone works for the common good and gets an equal share, there will be those who will feel that they should get more tomatoes because they don't like the zucchini and eggplant. It is a difficult situation with no real solution.

Our society has existed too long with the entitlement mindset. We think that everything should be given to us without having to work for it. We, as a nation, simply do not want to work for, or toward, anything useful. We have demonized the concept of getting dirty. If that were not true, there would be a lot more people with back yard gardens and we wouldn't need food banks anymore. We would all be eating healthier and diseases like diabetes would not be such an issue anymore.

Now, with all of that being said, there are still things that can be done to help others. If you have a garden, share your extra food with those in need. There are lots of things you can grow in a small space that will produce more than the normal family can eat during the season. Like squash, tomatoes, melons, and beans. This is especially true for those who do not can or preserve their crop. Just how many cantaloupes can you and your family eat in a week? So give the extras to your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Getting tired of beans before the plants stop producing? Donate them. Or sell them at the local farmer's market.

There was an online program I found a couple of years ago called "Plant a row for the hungry" that gave out free packets of seeds for anyone agreeing to donate the proceeds from that seed packet to a food bank or homeless shelter. I thought that was an exceptionally good idea. I got a packet of carrot seeds, which probably actually cost less than the postage to mail it to me, but produced about 5 pounds of carrots. I gave them to the teen shelter and they were grateful.

There are just so many options for the extra food you produce. Even things like eggs from your backyard flock. I know that we could not possibly eat enough eggs every week to keep up with the production from even 4 or 5 hens. We just don't eat enough eggs. I use about 7 eggs a week. What would I do with the extras? And if I were raising chickens for meat, I would need a lot more than 4 or 5 chickens. That is a bunch of potential eggs. I could sell them, or give them to friends and neighbors, or I could donate them.

But would I want to raise them in a community coop where anyone could decide that they needed all of them that day and leave none for anyone else? I am thinking probably not. As a society, we just haven't been taught to share on such a scale anymore. Neighbors don't pitch in and help build a barn or give food and clothing to victims of house fires. We don't trust one another any more. And we have hardened ourselves against caring for anyone but ourselves.

I don't like it, but it is the truth. And unless we can change it, we will probably lose all sense of community and be a nation of individuals instead of the United States of America.

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