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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The local sustainability movement

Sustainable BallardLast night I went to my first Sustainable Ballard meeting in an effort to get more involved at the local level. The topics for the evening were centered mostly around growing your own food and what resources there were in the community to help.

Someone from the Seattle P-Patch Trust spoke about the 23 acres of land that is available to the public for growing food. There are currently 6,000 gardeners using the P-Patches, but there are 2,000 people on the waiting lists. For those of you who live in Seattle and want to know how to move up the list a little faster, she suggested that you volunteer at the P-Patch you are interested in. Anyway, one of the resources the speaker was suggesting for people to use is a document, Starting a Community Garden (pdf), from the American Community Garden Association, if you are looking to start a community garden in your area.

I spoke a bit afterwards with the Garden and Natural Environment Guild Leader for the group about harvesting fruit trees both on public and private land. She suggested checking out the Community Fruit Tree Harvest which is focused on harvesting unwanted community fruit and delivering it to people with limited access to organic produce (food bank, shelters, senior centers, etc.).

One thing we discussed was some way of matching neighbors that have fruit and nut trees with volunteers to come and harvest their fruit. It is similar in concept to a recently launched website, Urban Garden Share, which matches up people with gardening space with gardeners who would like to use it. The website is currently only available to those in the Seattle area, but they are looking to expand to Portland and, eventually, the rest of the country. Definitely check it out - it's only been up a few weeks, but it's an interesting idea.

Anyway, I think it would be cool to be able to search for someone who has fruit trees that aren't interested in the fruit and match them with someone who is. Since nothing like this exists (that I know of - but maybe I'll just have to build the darn thing myself), I mentioned that having a "stock" letter on something like a door hanger to put on the fruit tree owner's door asking if they were interested in someone harvesting the fruit/nuts on their trees (with contact info if they want to follow-up - email or phone) would be cool to have. In other words, a request letter, you could even state what you would give in trade, like jars of jam or the like.

For those of you interested in transportation issues related to food security, the Sail Transport Company is working to deliver food grown from around Puget Sound, but transported to Seattle via sailboat. It's a CSA by sail. They've already done at least one delivery to Shilshole Marina this year and weekly delivery will start at the end of May. So, instead of getting your produce grown in the Puget Sound area delivered by car or truck, you can get it delivered farm-to-market without burning a single drop of hydrocarbon fuel.

Lastly, two companies were there to speak about the services they offer to Seattle gardeners. Both offer full service edible landscape design focusing on building your garden beds for you and helping establish your crops, even going so far as maintaining them if you like. Seattle Urban Farm Company will also spec out and build you a custom chicken coop and will soon be offering custom built pygmy goat pens as well.

Cascadian Edible Landscapes offers chicken coops in addition to custom garden bed construction, rain barrel installation and the like, but one thing that was really cool is that they have this program, basically a CSA for plant starts. They do all the plant starts and get them to you at the correct time of the year for year-round produce. Too cool!

Man, I love Seattle.

15 comments:

elbales said...

*is envious*

That is so awesome. I wonder if anyone is doing any similar projects in the SF Bay Area?

Thanks for a great post.

meghantelpnerblog.com said...

There are a couple of different groups that have organized foraging adventures. There is a group in Toronto you can list your trees with and they'll come harvest them- for the busy peeps who don't do it themselvs and so saves the harvest from being wasted.

Heather @ SGF said...

No doubt! That's wonderful! I always love hearing about what the west coast is doing. Not only is it incredibly inspiring, but we're so much further behind you in our progress that we can just steal all your ideas - when we get around to actually accepting them in the general population, that is :)

Healing Green said...

That CSA for plant starts IS too cool. I love it.

M said...

Thanks for all of these links! I have been trying to start a community garden in my area for a while (LA has very few gardens considering the number of residents living in apartments without any land!) Unfortunately the land is still an issue here as every square inch seems to be dedicated to commercial development or is along the freeways.

ruchi said...

Hmmm ... maybe I should add Seattle to my list of contenders as I search for a city to live in post-graduation. ;)

Greenpa said...

Very very cool! My only worry is about YOU, Crunchella. I can just see you at a meeting with these great folks, and you speak up and say "you know, we could also be doing THIS..." - and next day you're in charge of some huge project! On top of your existing load.

Beware! :-)

saucy salsita said...

i am so jealous. i wish costa rica had this kind of community awareness for going green. we all kind of live in enclosed residentials, i'm lucky cause i live in the mountains and can have land, but it's cold where i live so no veggie garden just a great compost hole:)
Saucy Salsita, AKA The Green, Sexy Expat - Greening it up in Costa Rica!

Joules said...

Wow, what will you kids on the West Coast think of next? These are really great ideas. Thanks for the inspiration; I'd love to see more of this in Texas.

Robj98168 said...

Isn't it great? I (try) to get to the Sustainable Burien meetings, the Scallops Sister group of sustainable Ballard. I always find interesting topics and ideas from those meetings

Anonymous said...

Crunchy,
Re: unwanted fruit. I read an article in the NYT about a year ago about a group in Berkeley, CA, that is doing exactly this. It must be working, because my scavanging daughter tells me that the trees are no longer hers to pick freely.

novemberjuliet said...

I'm glad you went. I've always meant to but have been too intimidated.

I forgot to tell you that i planted potatoes, garlic and lettuce, thanks to you! Came home today and the dang squirrels (?) had been digging in the garlic and lettuce.

Farmer's Daughter said...

It's great to see how the local community can come together. I was asked to join my town's hazardous waste and recycling committee tonight. I'm not sure if I'll have time... but I'm thinking about it :)

Anonymous said...

I have wanted in the past to open up our small orchard to gleaners, whether organized or just neighbors, but have worried about liability issues. It seems ridiculous, until you read the absurd things people have sued over, and won. Do the organizations that collect unwanted fruit have insurance? Are they operating under the property owners' insurance? I HATE that we have to worry about this sort of thing, but I would also hate to have to lose precious resources, both time and money, to a lawsuit if someone trips over a root in our hillside orchard or gets beaned by a falling apple.

Greenpa said...

Anonymous 12:08: yeah. That stuff is a big pain; but it's stuff you DO need to think about.

We had a "cut your own" Christmas tree operation for about 10 years. One of the very few around here- other growers had quit doing cut your own for liability reasons, and another- which I'll mention below. (we quit doing it because we ran out of time, not customers)

I loved the idea so much that we skimped a bit on the legal side- we had customers sign in when they came, and that included a liability release; "We realize that snow is slippery, saws are sharp, and fires are hot..." The reality is, those kinds of releases will not hold up in court if someone really wants to fight them. I knew that- and we did it anyway.

Never got burned there. Where we DID get burned, and the real reason other growers quit doing it, was basically vandalism by our customers. The most common form was where they would cut a tree, start dragging it in- and then see a tree they liked better. Some subhumans would then just cut the new tree, and leave the old one- now basically non-salable for us.

And other stuff. Some people are jerks, ya know? I was able to just take that kind of crap in stride, but many others couldn't. In the case of fruit trees; sooner or later, unless carefully supervised, some moron is going to have kids climbing your trees to shake down more fruit- and they'll wind up breaking off scaffold limbs. And they won't tell you about it.

Anyway. In all these schemes- eventually, you get around to needing some formal supervision for harvesters. Which is doable; and the sooner that's set up, the better, really.

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