Just like there are many children without parents awaiting adoption all over the world, there is a movement happening across the country to bring together orphaned schools with no gardens and willing “parents” with resources the help them grow and thrive.

The non-profit National Gardening Association is bridging the gap creating many happy gardening “families” with their Adopt-A-Garden Program. We all know how powerful it is to teach our children about sustainable practices and in turn the impact it can have on our future when they know how to grow their own food.

You can make a straight donation or buy varying levels of grow kits which contain all materials needed to get a local school in your town started and you can even present it to the school yourself. To find a school near you in need search here.  If you have an orphaned school awaiting fruitful seeds and want to register to be in their database you can add here.

How precious new life can be… http://assoc.garden.org/ag/asg/


Nestled in the foothills of the southern Berkshires, in the northwest corner of Connecticut in Falls Village, is the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.  It is an oasis of pristine beauty just a mere few hours from hustle bustle of major city life in New York and Boston. So what makes this retreat center different than all other retreat centers?  Surely other facilities have gardens and grow their own food, but what’s a unique here is the Adamah fellowship.

This intensive 3-month program takes a select group of young Jewish 20-somethings, immerses them into organic gardening culture and sustainable living, mixes in concrete Judaic values and then disperses them back to their respective home towns to help infuse their newfound skills into the community. These are the very types of programs that have a ripple effect and will take us into, and perhaps save us, in the not so distant future.

Organic, green and kosher, now how much more pure and divine can you get? Check it out http://isabellafreedman.org/adamah/fellowship

Not So “Uncommon” Anymore

While I mainly think of rooftop gardens as things that only happen in warm weather places, or more progressive cities, I’m learning more and more how it’s actually becoming quite a regular occurrence, either that or how progressive Chicago really is when it comes to being green, LOL. But with some parts of the city that don’t even have recycling bins for residences just yet, I am intrigued as in a cozy little north side neighborhood sits a fairly nice looking, good old-fashioned American style restaurant and bar that is changing the way things are done in the whole country.

The Restaurant “Uncommon Ground” with its long-standing reputation here in Chicago, just happens to be the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country. Now you usually don’t think of a bar kind of place with live music, burgers and beer on the menu as donning a rooftop garden, but if you look a bit closer at the menu, you will see it bursting with flavor, herbs and fresh vegetables that make anyone’s mouth start watering for a little taste of the fresh produce above you.

They play host to an organic product market this year every Friday from June to October, and support many green environment events as well. I don’t know, but this may just become my new “common” place for dinner…

Visit: http://www.uncommonground.com/

While it’s great that many people these days are trading their yards for gardens, it really is worth noting, that it is truly a lifestyle choice. It is a path that some people choose to walk to its fullest and it takes courage, commitment and dedication to stand-up and be different; to blaze a trail and create a pathway and opening for others to follow. That’s what one family in Pasadena, California has been doing for nearly two decades.

Meet the Dervaes, a true urban homesteading family. Back in the 80’s, they set out to grow their own food on their tiny little lot of under 1/4 acre of land. Fast forward to the present day, they grow 6000lbs of produce on a 1/10 acre garden, utilize alternative energy, water conservation techniques and more to create a nearly 99% self-sustainable lifestyle. They are basically a family of four living off-the-grid right in the heart of an urban sprawl, demonstrating that it can be done.

They are on a path, a green path of sustainability that has created a whole movement they named “A Path To Freedom” back in 2001. Providing outreach programs and services they are sharing their passion and knowledge of everything green, inspiring people far and wide. With the new documentary film about their family called “HomeGrown”, their green path is truly creating a revolution, encouraging people to grow greener home pastures filled with abundant gardens.

Now while I have to admit, I don’t see myself being nearly self-sufficient anytime soon, I can say that I am indeed inspired when I hear stories like this. It makes me want more than just a tomato plant someday. And isn’t that how we begin to cultivate change in the world? One small plant for man, one giant crop for mankind?

Tree of Life

It’s no secret that in California, if you’re lucky, you might move into a house that has a fruit tree or two in the yard.  They are abundantly dispersed throughout the city. It might be lemons, avocados, oranges; it’s usually a real treat for most homeowners. I know it’s always a delight for me anytime I go over to a friends house who happens to have one, it’s like my own personal farmer’s market and I leave with a nice bag of fresh produce.

But what happens when you have a life giving tree and it’s too much fruit for you? Sure you can give it to your neighbors or bring it to the people in your office, but all too often homeowners aren’t  keeping up on their harvests and fruit starts to go to the ground. Here’s how one group out there is making sure nothing goes to waste!

“Harvest Westchester” is a group with a simple mission. They collect  fruit from your trees and donate it to the Food Pantry LAX which then distributes food to those in need.  You can box up your fruit and drop it off yourself, they will come pick it up from you, or if you are a senior or need assistance, they will even come and harvest the fruit for you. Their collection is a local  5 mile radius from the Sepulveda and Manchester intersection in the Westchester neighborhood.  So if you are nearby be sure to register your trees if you have more than you need….and if you aren’t nearby, take a look at their sight anyway and see how a few simple acts of coordinating can actually get food to those that need it. Some pretty good food for thought if you ask me.


Look Up!

Who says there’s no room for a garden in the big city? We all know that green building is a hot topic these days. And while green roofs specifically are growing by leaps and bounds each year, many urban dwellers are taking the concept to the next level. More and more individuals, as well as businesses, churches, and even elementary schools are looking up towards the sky to create sustainable vegetable gardens right above their heads…Read more inspiration here in the New York Times:

It only takes the inspiration of one person to create sustainable change in all parts of the country and even the world. Taja Sevelle has just that kind of spirit. A singer and songwriter for the likes of Prince and many others, it was an idea that came during a recording trip to Detroit. Unused parcels of land were abundant in this struggling city in 2005. With her own initial investment, what started as 3 gardens yielding 1 ton of food for the hungry souls of Detroit, has flourished and now dozens of gardens provide food for the hungry in Los Angeles, Newark, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Hawaii and even Jamaica, with Atlanta, New Orleans and West Palm Beach being the next new frontier.

The mission of the Urban Farming organization is that it…”intends to eradicate hunger while increasing diversity, motivating youth and seniors and optimizing the production of unused land for good and alternative energy…We plant gardens on unused land in cities, on rooftops, on walls, in planters in malls and sidewalks cafes and have Green Science Gardens in school campuses k-college.”

There are many ways to donate and/or get involved in local growing efforts. From volunteering your own organizational manpower for gardening to being and intern, to buying a ticket to your favorite concert at Tickets-for-Charity, be sure to read all about this wonderful organization at: UrbanFarming.org

And check out these great before and after photos of some of their current Urban Farming Food Chain (c) Projects where even the residents of places like Skid-Row are now getting fresh food thanks to The Edible Green Wall Project. It’s truly inspirational: View Photos

So what exactly is a decentralized urban farming effort?

Picture this — you’ve got a nice yard that you could grow a garden but don’t really know a thing about it or have the time, but you relish in the idea of fresh fruits and salads and herbs and all that wonderful gourmet cooking and healthy habits it would bring.  Well, the solution is out there and it’s growing! Imagine a service that will come design it, plant it, maintain it and even take care of harvesting your vegetables.  Then they’ll leave a basket of fresh produce at your front door and portion out the rest to spread upon the neighbors who also have a garden and vice versa.   Sounds too good to be true!
See how one group in the San Francisco area is making local produce and sustainabilty their mission. Visit:   MyFarmSF.com
When we think of big cities, we think hustle and bustle, we don’t think of people spending their time leisurely outside doing hard labor.  But that’s a changing trend, especially when there are people you can hire who are ready and willing to help you plant a vegetable garden in spaces both large and small.
It’s a new-found profession that is starting to pop up in many places as more and more people want to have a vegetable garden but don’t have the expertise or time to do it.  You gotta love our country, where there’s a demand, the supply just naturally shows up and a new profession is  created in an instant. Here’s a little inspiration from the San Fransisco area.  The Freelance Farmers will help you do it all!  They will help you design, plant and even maintain your garden for you…imagine being able to go outside and pick out what you want in your salad every night. 
I’ve always thought about having a garden someday once I have a more permanent living space. But I really do not have a green thumb, in fact I’m all knuckles when it comes to gardening.  So I have always dreamed about hiring someone to help me do it.  I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see this popping up more and more.
There are also people calling themselves Garden Coaches these days too all around the country. We truly are rich with resources, may our vegetable gardens be plentiful.
Sure a great lawn is a nice status symbol, but is it really necessary and perhaps even a tad bit wasteful? The earth is filled with wonderful ways to provide abundance for us. What if — what if we turned all our front yards into vegetable gardens? 
When most people think growing vegetables, we think traditional rows of farm land or a big backyard overgrown with plants, but there’s a new way to garden with artful intention making a front yard stand out and provide nourishement for a home owner and the neighbors too.
With a book entitled “Edible Estates: Attack On the Front Lawn” architect and artist Fritz Haeg began a series of prototype gardens to create this reality throughout the country in 2005. It’s a project that’s making waves, or shall I say, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, berries….  
There are gardens in Salina, Kansas, Lakewood, California, Maplewood, New Jersey, London, England, and more…Check out Haeg’s site EdibleEstates.org  and you can choose the various projects from the drop down menu and see photos across the top of the screen to give you an idea of what it’s all about.  
There’s a new breed of gardeners and they’re taking their towns by storm!

From Long Beach to London, San Fransisco to Switzerland, Italy to Ireland…all across the globe individuals are sneaking out dusk to dawn and taking gardening matters into their very own hands.  They’re called “guerrilla gardeners” and they’ve got incredible passion, amazing green thumbs and a bit of a daring side.  Sure, many of us have heard of guerrilla filmmaking (having an MFA in the subject, it’s something I’m well aware of), where a passionate filmmaker hits the streets with nothing more than a camera and an actor to get that “money” shot at any cost without all the red tape, but guerrilla gardening?  Really?  Who would have thought?  I had never heard of such a thing, but I can assure you now it’s out there, it’s real and it might be happening in front of your very own eyes and you’ll never suspect a thing.

Whether it’s a tiny corner inset of a cracked sidewalk filled with stale dirt, a median dividing a major road, or an entire vacant lot, there are spaces in every place on earth that tend to get ignored by their respective cities.  With recent trends in gardening growing by leaps and bounds, savvy, expert and courageous gardeners are at work transforming these neglected but fruitful pieces of land – on the run and undercover.  Going to great lengths to beautify the earth and create some sustainable living, at any cost.

From all out troops of friends texting their whereabouts trying to work diligently undercover, to cajoling police officers who eventually decide it’s a great thing even though it’s city property and no one seems to have a permit, to the one-person army going for an evening stroll with a few flower bulbs in their pocket — the creativity is astonishing! You must read some of these stories!

So the next time you’re out walking around or going for a drive, see how many little empty, neglected or rundown pieces of potentially prime gardening land you can find. Then imagine what a few adventurous people with a bit of gardening know-how might be able to transform that land into…uh, well, ya know, not that I’m saying to go do anything of course :-) www.guerrillagardening.org
If you are new to the subject or already familiar with the concept, the National Gardening Association has a great online Primer to help you get started. It’s a nice little overview about the subject with basic how-to knowledge of things to keep in mind.
The photos in the Planning section demonstrate that planting edibles can be done with style, taste and naturally lots of flavors. Visit: Garden.org, there is a wealth of additional knowledge and articles about the subject.
A non-profit organization in Maine, called Kitchen Gardeners International is helping pave the way and give guidance for people to take gardening into their own hands. A way to create wonderful produce that goes from the garden to great recipes in your kitchen.
Addtionally, with grants & partnership programs, they are helping to donate and fund the creation of local gardens around the world. It’s amazing sometimes to think about how people creatively can make a difference in the lives of others.
Check it out at the link above.
Growing vegetables is not just for farmers or backyard gardeners anymore, high profile places are stepping up to the plate and helping to make statements about creating sustainability by growing local produce.
The City Hall in Baltimore is giving the grounds that normally contain annuals a big sustainable makeover. The harvests will be donated to a local program called Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen which feeds several hundred people on a daily basis. Now seriously, when you stop to think about it, how cool is that! Most major cities have places that help feed the hungry of all faiths that rely on food donations of various kinds. Imagine the benefits of getting fresh local produce donated, both from an organizational funding standpoint as well as the health benefits that come from eating fresh, ripe, healthy vegetables.
There are efforts around the country dedicated to helping get gardens planted in high profile places. Remember, everything starts with one idea from one person, so keep your eyes open as you drive around town with your gardening glasses on. One suggestion to your local city or town is sometimes enough to get the ball rolling (or shall I say shovels digging), volunteers stepping forward, and seeds planted. There are a few other city government building gardens around the country already in the planning stages so be sure to keep your eyes out, it’s a trend I am sure will continue.
With all the buzz about the White House gardening project (see the post just before this one), there was also a lot of mention of the Victory Garden that Elanor Roosevelt once planted on the White House lawn. On the surface it seems like a literal title to me and I understood what it was, but  I decided to look up what the Victory Garden was really all about. In a nutshell, here’s what I found….
It wasn’t just a celebratory garden (as the title might indicate), it was actually a movement during the wars to help take food supply matters into our own hands. In a time when some foods were in short supply, things were being rationed and we needed extra for our armies, the government turned to the people. Their encouragement worked and million of new home and community gardens were planted. People with all sizes of homes and yards stepped up to the plate. And it worked, because about one third of our entire fresh produce supply came from these resources. Here’s some additional reading about it if you are feeling a bit nostalgic: LivingHistoryFarm, ReviveVictoryGarden, VictorySeeds
Imagine if we did that today, what a difference that would make in feeding ourselves and the world. In fact there is a resurgence of “victory gardens” springing up these days during our warmer economic climate. With high gas prices, food poisoning outbreaks people are wanting to have things a little closer to home to keep their eye on things. Plus people are simply bonding together realizing we can create viable resources to feed the people that really need it. Victories on many levels are occurring all around us. Some current victory happenings around the country: LA Times, VictoryGardenInitiative, SFVicotryGardens, plus an intersting overview of past & present at knol.google