One of the things I love about gardeners is they love to share. Permies is a perfect example of gardeners who love to share there knowledge and experiences. They also love to share what they grow. Last year I posted on permies looking for comfrey at a low price because I couldn't get it locally and I had lost my job. Trace Oswald sent me several comfrey roots, and didn't even charge me shipping. He doesn't know me he just did it from the goodness of his heart. Today I asked my sister in law if I could have an artichoke plant. She gave me one last year (wanted to give me more, but I didn't have a place at the time). That plant died. I go over today, and not only does she give me several artichokes, she gave me a large clump of irese, a couple of lambs ear, and three flowers. She also gave me an artichoke seed head. When I start veggie seed I start more than I need so I can share with my family.
As I was planting my new plants I was thinking. There aren't a group of people who are more giving, more sharing then gardeners. I'm a rather introverted person, but when someone comes to our house, I always take them to my gardens. There is just something so special about the process of growing food, flowers, trees, ect. We just want to share. Gardening feeds my soul, and gardeners feed my mind and heart. Thank you gardeners.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln
I can barely finish going for a walk without someone handing me a bag full of vegetables. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but we sure do get handed a lot of produce. I appreciate it and I often feel compelled to reciprocate if I can. I'm pretty integrated into the culture here in rural Japan, but there's a sense of "Don't visit someone's house empty-handed" and "Don't let a visitor leave your house empty handed" here too, which I jump on willingly.
This is the first year I’ve been able to really plan a garden with the kids, and while my older one was fully on board from the start, the younger one was less enthusiastic....until I mentioned that we were planning it to have plenty extra to give away to our friends/neighbors. Now he’s the first one wanting to check on the plants every day.
Providing food for others is definitely a love language (I consider it act of service + gift, if you go by the “big 5”), and this kid gets it.
“O frischer Duft, o neuer Klang! Nun, armes Herze, sei nicht bang!
Nun muss sich Alles, Alles wenden.”
I was the weird kid who had several flower and vegetable gardens by the time I was eighteen and had my own home. Over the years I've been the recipient of many gifts of flowers, shrubs and vegetables from older gardeners who were delighted to see someone younger interested in gardening. The only rule is never to say thank you for plants as there's a superstition here that plants will not grow if you do. So I got in the habit of telling the giver that I appreciated the gift instead. I too am a bit of an introvert but find that a conversation about plants have started many good friendships. Now I find myself giving away plants and excess produce often.
I'm a prideful person (runs in the family), and being unemployed with covid has meant learning to accept whatever help is offered, even when that help comes from strangers on the internet... which was really tough for me. But I've gotten so much help from people here at Permies that I just hope I can pay it forward over the next few years. I want to respect their privacy and not name any names, but they're welcome to chime in if they desire.
My plan out here was also to develop as much of the 93 acres I'm stewarding into forest garden as was practical and then work out a way to get that food into the hands of people for free. The church up the street is the only place on our road that's safe to pull out and park, so I wanted to talk to them about setting up a free produce/plant stand with the option for donations (of money, labor, tools, plants, their own surplus produce, etc.) No strings attached. If people want to try something new but would be discouraged by having to pay for it, they can just take it. If they don't have the means to buy food, they can take it. Even if they have the means and just don't want to pay anything, then that's fine too. The way I see it the world is being destroyed by commercial agriculture, so the more people I can feed with food grown in the right way the more people I can take out of the commercial system. Most of the commercial world as a whole is destroying the planet... either by the pollution it creates or the resources it overconsumes, the families and communities it destroys with our insane work schedules, or the uneccessary traffic jams and the ensuing carbon emissions created on a daily basis by commuters. If I can reduce one of a person's major expenses while increasing their health and creating a sense of community, then they are able to work less and contribute less to a toxic system... or at least enjoy more stability so that they can make better decisions about how they spend their money. I like to give, but it's not entirely altruistic. I'm creating the kind of world that I can tolerate living in, one bite of food, one seed, or one cutting at a time.
Even though we're in the middle of nowhere, we live on the main road connecting two counties and so we get about 3,000 cars a day. Not a lot city standards, but that's 5 times what the population of this town was when I was growing up here. I think I could reasonably feed a third of that many people all of their food every year once the food forest is established and systems are in place to harvest, etc. I'm kind of imagining setting it up like the local gleaning groups where people who preserve can pick for themselves for an hour for free, and then pick for the produce stand for an hour. I've had boy scout leaders ask about volunteering out here, and there are probably opportunities to work with local non-profits and churches. Plus, we'll be moving friends and family out here as we have the food production and infrastructure to support them, so that's more hands on deck to run things. Everybody spends a bit of time working on food production (or whatever needs to get done in a given day), and everybody spends some time working on whatever they're passionate about or to create whatever income they feel they need. One of the guys is a programmer and I've been talking to him about building little weather stations that record historical data that are actually useful to people growing food... historical air and soil temperature, rainfall, etc. right where we're actually growing (the last frost is about a month apart between the three cities nearest us, so it makes it difficult to make good decisions about when to plant certain things.) If the deer end up eating most of it, that's fine, but I hope we're able to eventually hammer out the logistics so that we can feed a lot of people for free, both directly and indirectly through propagation.
It's a far off dream at this point, but the beginnings of it are starting to come together.
Matthew, I applaud your efforts and hope your dreams are fulfilled. More importantly, never be discouraged by people who tell you it can't be done!
My plan was to have a small market garden and greenhouse this year but health issues dictated otherwise. After a few months of therapy I'm back at it and though I didn't plant with intentions of selling, I still have way more plants than my garden and my parent's can possibly hold. Excess plants will be offered to friends first and to the school if they want them. Otherwise I'll probably advertise and give them away.
If I may suggest; FREE is never truly free. Those that are truly in need will not benefit due to pride; those not in need will eventually abuse your kindness and profit off your labors.
You may wish to consider trade/barter option for those without cash (X number of pounds of produce for X number of hours working: planting, thinning, picking, processing, packing, delivering, computer, graphics, accounting, etc.) and supply everyone under a subscription plan. Look at SPUD.ca as a model in the subscription world, perhaps.
At the very least, I highly suggest you look at non-profit status. For your basic goal of providing an alternative to corporate "farming" to succeed, it needs to be sustainable; unless you are independently wealthy, and prepared to self fund this (kudo's if you are!) there WILL be costs to offset.
The dream is beautiful, sadly not all humans are AS kind and generous. I fear those who take advantage WILL profit of you and at the very least, undermine your ability to fulfill your mission.
P.S.: what has more value to you personally, something you earned (like your rust bucket first car?) or got for free (corporate Mercedes)? Which generated more pride, self confidence? Which did you take better care of? The curse of "free"....
Lorinne Anderson: Specializing in sick, injured, orphaned and problem wildlife for over 20 years.
Matthew, I love your idea, especially collaborating with the church to better reach people. I am trying to figure a way to do something similar on a much smaller scale with my garden produce--particlarly during berry season.
I am privileged enough to own an urban property large enough for a small "food forest." However I have been thinking that so many of my neighbors do not have this privilege and the produce of the landshould be shared.
I thought if maybe a "little free family stand" in the yard, nut I am not sure how well it would work out logistically just in my yard. E.g would people take what was offered? Would I end up with wasted items that have sat out all day?
I think maybe the better way would be working with one of the existing food banks in the neighborhood to supplement their food giveaways.
Weeds are just plants with enough surplus will to live to withstand normal levels of gardening!--Alexandra Petri