I started the CommonGardenGround website from an overflow of creativity. I didn't understand, at the time, why I felt such a strong urge to create videos, articles, etc. on my love of plants, modeling nature, and our relationship to nature and each other.
Through 30+ articles, I tried content pieces like articles of clothing, figuring out what fits, to see if it would give me clues to feel out what I was really longing for.
Did I want to start a business with plants/my website?
Did I want to build an audience and make content on the regular? Was it purely about creating content?
Did I want to teach how to work with the limitations of living in an apartment when your heart is in the garden and the forest?
Slowly as I published articles, I began to discover that I longed for:
To have help growing, to find others with similar values/interests.
Gardening is highly experiential, and you learn more by growing with others who have walked the path before you than digging through YouTube for every question you don't know how to put words to. When I joined a community garden, there wasn't really any community events, much less mentoring and education. I was living 30min away from the plot, it was an uphill battle to really make progress and really grow a significant amount of food. If your garden is not in your backyard, its really hard to give the daily care that a garden needs, especially as a newbie outdoor gardener.
To be able to plant a f*&king little apple tree, for garden sakes.
If the point of a community garden was to grow food, isn't puzzling that fruit trees are not allowed to be planted? On the one hand, it makes sense, because plots are "rented" like apartment units. And yet...a garden is not an apartment unit, to be rented out and wiped out for each new tenant. Its a living, breathing organism that, with addition of trees and other more "permanent plants" (like my apple tree lonely in its pot), becomes a source of food, wildlife habitat, etc. that gives more in food, meaning, joy and health than it takes in labor. Which brings me to why I wanted a house so badly as a strategy to leave a garden legacy. What I discovered of course, is that when the house owner leaves, the garden often get wiped out as well.
What if it could be different though? What if the more community oriented spaces...like churches, libraries, etc. that tend to stay put, allowed for a garden to go on from generation to generation? I could plant and pick apples from the apple tree (which is illegal for me to plant anywhere else...especially that strip by the highway where the malnourished homeless people could benefit) and help pave the way for the next gardener to do the same when I move, pass away, etc.
To connect to nature and others in our natural habitat
I remember a camping trip (one of my first ones) in high school where I went to the beach with a very outdoors-y family. Without me being aware of it, I felt a sense of closeness and community I hadn't ever really felt before over those couple days. When I went home, it dawned on me how deeply isolating the modern world normally is, and I began crying in front of my parents, who became offended at the fact that I didn't really feel that sense of closeness with them. Of course I didn't. We were rarely fully present, fully there with each other, because its hard to be in the modern environment.
Its hard to be fully present, in the moment, when you're not in your natural habitat. If my dog stays in his crate or in the apartment too long without running outside, his soul dims a little. I feel it, and I feel that same thing too. I need some return to my natural habitat, and I won't realize how deeply its needed until I'm given that experience of moving closer towards it.
To do my own little part.
There is so. much. talk. about huge wicked problems that are far beyond what any one human can begin to chip away at, yet I hear news and media going on and on about things as if its my responsibility, to solve prejudice, fix the climate, get the economy on track, etc.
All I can do, is the step right in front of me, with what I have, with where I'm at. If I can do that one thing with joy and love, I can do my own little part in a way that makes it more likely others will do their own little part. So what brings me joy, is growing food, flowers, fragrance, beauty and growing community.
As I attempted to move towards those intentions...I spent quite a long time through many different avenues in my journey....
I got a garden plot, with little education or community to support my fledgling garden skills.
I reached out to other community gardens, without a lot of headway.
I tried the Shared Earth website, only to be pressured into an unpaid landscaping job, essentially.
I set up CommonGardenGround, maybe others would find me?
I joined Facebook groups for gardening
I talked to the people in my community garden plot to see what they might do...everyone seemed too busy.
Then I found out about a Thrive Hive, and this was getting much closer...
I saw that Jesse James, as a newbie gardener, had connected with his neighbors to work together to cultivate living soil so they could eat tremendously healthy, alive food that's hyperlocal and shared together, I was so inspired that I immediately began brainstorming a way to start something like that in my local neighborhood.
I put in a whole lot of work to start something similar, even though my desire wasn't to be the only main person trying to put together a community. I went ahead anyway, because it was the closest thing to what I was wanting and there seemed to be no one close to me doing anything similar.
After a workshop on microgreens, a few potlucks with my (sapling of a) Thrive Hive, and interviews with homeowners not in my Thrive Hive on why they wouldn't let their gardening neighbors grow food in their backyard (turns out there are all kinds of risks, trust issues, etc. that make that pretty difficult) and seeing the difficulty in starting a community dependent on going to people's homes...I ran into the GIFT.
I want to say that, the Thrive Hive that Jesse James started is a great model of a Thrive Hive that works! There being multiple people highly engaged from the outset, among other factors, really makes it work! If you live in South Austin, or want to play with starting something like that, you can check out there Facebook page here.
This brings me to the many models approach that both Jesse James had mentioned to me and later Randy Jewart mentioned. Its that what helps one group of people come together and form community, might be different than what helps another group. My journey in creating a Thrive Hive helped me see clearly that in my context, the GIFT was a model beginning to form that I could better contribute to.
So at the GIFT, I found there were already people trying to do this same thing. This time though, there is a community space gifted by the church, there is a team of others taking leadership roles towards growing food that we can share, a clear intention to welcome people from all walks of life (atheists and priests having a chat?! really?!) and I can plant a f'n apple tree, for garden sakes.
So the GIFT is a place where we can have a living experiment of what a community could look like, with the intention to grow food together we can share, to move closer to our natural habitat, to care for this planet and for ourselves, and, last but not least, have fun enjoying the process!
Are you in the Austin area? I'd love for you to stop by!
Not in the Austin area?
If you're not in the local Austin area, I'd love your ideas, desires, input. This is partly to have many minds from all over the world contributing to the regenerative possibilities of the GIFT, but also partly to inspire you, to find (or enjoy more deeply) your relationship to food, community and nature in ways that will transform you. Like that one time I got a garden plot, and my depression seemed to fade away.