Building Community Through the Little Free Garden

Little Free Garden

Little Free Garden

Thanks to Meghan Myrdal, co-founder of Ugly Food of the North, for sharing this story.

Her story focuses on an effort to bring food and an awareness of food to communities. In it she discusses how the project can bring meaningful connections.

I have the privilege of knowing her and watching her work towards a well-connected food system that, in turn, drives strong, healthy communities.

I hope this idea inspires you to try something new or to try this program in your own area. There are so many different ways it could be done and it could involve some many different groups.

Thanks Megan for sharing.


Grow. Take. Share. – The Little Free Garden Project 

By: Megan Myrdal

This summer you will find small, raised-bed gardens springing up in front yards across Fargo, ND-Moorhead, MN. But there’s something special about the little boxes with the green placard. The food grown within eight-square feet can be taken by anyone. In fact, it’s encouraged!

Ugly Food of the North recently launched the Little Free Garden, a project intended to foster communities committed to growing, sharing and cultivating food in small, raised-bed gardens, designed to fit in residential spaces.  The project launched with an inaugural build event at Concordia College on April 23.

The project was inspired by the Little Free Library project, but instead of sharing books the owners share food. The small, cedar wood, raised-bed gardens (4 x 2 ft, 12” deep) are placed in a household’s front yard, are planted and tended by the homeowners, and all the food grown is to be harvested by anyone who wants it or needs it.

Ugly Food of the North formed in August of last year with the goal of creating a more sustainable, personal food system through education, networking and community organizing. Since the group formation, they’ve held monthly events to bring the community together to learn about and discuss important food issues including food waste, urban agriculture, local food access, and food security.

The creation of the Little Free Garden project was inspired by the idea that the little box symbolizes a simple response to many of the important food issues the group has been working to address — the disconnect between food and agriculture, people lacking access to healthful, locally grown food, a lost sense of value for food and therefore waste and/or overconsumption, and people craving an opportunity to connect with one another around healthful food and positive social experiences.

The project envisions that the little gardens will not only be a free transaction of food, but an littlefreegarden2exchange of personal, meaningful connection – a reason to talk to a neighbor or stranger; a chance to connect with one another in a shared growing experience.

The project launched over 50 gardens in the Fargo-Moorhead area this spring and has been documenting the community growing experience on their social media channel. They hope to follow the first gardens, learn how the process is received, and to launch the project more broadly next year.

You can read more about the Little Free Garden project here including ways to donate and support.

Field to Fork: Growing, Processing and Selling Local Food Safely

Farm workerThere are two big food movements currently going on in this country.

The first, the one we all have heard of, is that of local foods. Every state has some sort of activity going on. More and more people are enjoying getting fresh food from local producers. It’s great to get food ripened in the great outdoors and brought to us at its peak of freshness and taste.

The second movement we also have heard much about, although not lately. That issue is food safety. It arises most often when something happens somewhere in the process and people suffer. No one wants that to happen. Regulations have been passed and laws made but sometimes such events still occur.

It is important for anyone in the system, from growers through distributors and merchants, to do everything possible to keep our food supply safe. And that responsibility continues right on to the consumer to do his or her part.

With those thoughts in mind, Field to Fork, an effort of Julie Garden-Robinson of North Dakota State University Extension, was development of information on building a successful local foods business along with making sure the products stay safe throughout the process.

Check out the videos offering a variety of tips, including those for food safety.

And good luck.

 

Local Resources and Cooperative Extension Help Build Community

2016-07-05_1004Thanks this week to Pam Schallhorn, both serving as University of Illinois Extension Community Economic Developer Educator, for sharing their blog post.


It is not an uncommon remark someone makes wishing that his or her local community could grow.

Quite often a follow-up comment discusses “if only” we could bring in some new industries to make that happen.

The reality is that the resources, tools and spark plugs for community growth often already exist in the community. I have watched this happen in three counties in south central ND as they have come together around their Germans from Russia cultural heritage.

Pam’s  blog post shows how a community has built from within. Rockford, IL called it “tapping your own creative talent.” Locally grown businesses started based on the needs they saw. It’s a great example showing just what can be done. Cooperative Extension played a role in helping to make this happen.

In the post, Pam writes that the town realized that businesses were not just going to move in to save it. Instead, the people in the community needed to invest their own talent, time, energy, and, yes, even money to make things happen.

So are you ready to make things happen in your community?

 

Fine-tune Your Agritourism Operation

steve-driving-the-tractor-980-websiteGetting the most out of any business requires constant adjustment and fine-tuning. Agritourism businesses need the same thing as noted in this blog post by Michigan State University Extension.

In the post, they pulled together three tools to help you take a good look at your agritourism business. These tools came from the University of Vermont Extension, University of California Extension and Louisiana State University Extension.

You may also want to look at a resource booklet from Oklahoma and another from Oregon.

Agritourism offers some great opportunities to develop additional income from available resources. Achieving that goal requires you manage it like any other business. These guides can help.

Still wondering if agritourism is an opportunity for you?  Here are four farms that made it work. They are just a small sample of what there is to offer.