Creating Neighborhood Foodsheds: Sustainability in Suburbia

Eggplant in  a garden

You don’t have to have a survivalist attitude to build a neighborhood foodshed, says Owen Dell.  All it takes is coordinating and sharing the growing of food with your neighbors.

Recognizing the Role of Suburbia in Sustainable Living

Owen Dell has a visionary idea about the future of food growing. He believes we can use suburbs to build sustainability in the sense that suburbs can harnessed as local food sources for neighborhoods.  Growing food where it will be consumed and distributed means breaking free of dependence on fossil fuel for our produce.

Suburban areas are a valuable resource: homes are surrounded by garden spaces and are often built on former agricultural lands. It doesn’t take a lot of space to grow an impressive amount of food, especially if you organize your neighborhood to cooperate in growing a diversity of vegetables, fruit, and keeping chickens for eggs. There are also social benefits to growing and sharing food. In a neighborhood foodshed there is shared knowledge, and shared responsibility – the result is building community and enabling healthy diets.

Child and chicken
A designated neighborhood egg supplier

The CAFO That is Suburbia

Owen Dell is one of the engaging speakers that I heard at the EcoFarm conference last February.  Dell is the author of Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, (read a review here) and has a sustainable landscaping design business in Santa Barbara.

According to Dell there is only a three-day supply of food in any given city: what happens on the fourth day when there is a natural disaster or some kind of disruption that stops the food supply chain? Most of us don’t realize how dependent we are on the unseen “food system”  for our daily meals. He says that cities are like a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, aka, a feed lot) for human beings: we are separated, dependent, and caged.

Building relationships with our neighbors by sharing a fundamental activity such as growing food, is a way to reconnect to the earth that feeds us, together as the human family.

Organize Your Neighborhood Foodshed Now

You can download his excellent flyer packed with background information on foodsheds and ideas for getting started here.

Here are some pointers from the flyer-

After appointing a leader and a dedicated core team, consider the following:

1. The foodshed area should be small enough to be walkable while carrying a load of produce.

2. It should be large enough to grow food for the participants.

3. Different crops are assigned to those willing to grow them and share.

4. Designate regular times for food swapping- perhaps a weekend produce market in someone’s driveway.

5. Share knowledge and provide ongoing assistance with gardening issues.

6. Those who cannot or don’t want to grow food may want to offer their gardens for others to use.

Do you belong to a foodshed? Share your comments with us…

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke

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