Thrive with an Austin Hive
Do You Want to Eat Tremendously Healthy, Alive, Food from Rich, Living Soil?
Do You Want to Eat that Food, Surrounded by a Vibrant Community Where We Worked Together to Thrive?
Subscribe Below to Learn More about an Austin Thrive Hive, a Hyper-Local Gift Economy that Starts with Living Soil.
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Meet Chris: Plant-Nerd Way Before it Was Cool
I'm Chris, and I'd love to invite you to join a local Austin Thrive-Hive, but first, I wanna share how I got here. I fell in love with plants at a grocery store in Canada, long before I moved back to my hometown in Texas. Over many years of plant adventures and mishaps, I yearned for the day I could start growing my own food...when I finally got a garden plot, I found other struggles in my life changing for the better.
Then many challenges came. I found that, without a yard, without a garage, with living 30min away from the plot, with having no help, it was an uphill battle to really make progress and really grow a significant amount of food. I found ways around that, and managed to grow about 70% of all my greens on a regular, nearly year round basis...but something was still missing. I wanted to feel like I was part of a community, growing together, where we really contribute to each other's well-being and stand for something, without living in an eco-village or becoming cooped up in a bunker with machine guns waiting for another power outage.
I tried to reach out in various ways...
I joined a garden club
I reached out to a community garden that had more events and was closer to me
I tried the Shared Earth website
I set up this website, maybe someone who lives close would find me?
I joined Facebook groups for gardening
harassed talked to the people in my community garden plot to see what they might do...everyone seemed too busy.
When 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.
What is a Hive?
Jesse James started what he calls a "Hive" in his local community in south Austin. When the pandemic hit, he decided to work with a few friends to pool resources so that together, they could work on growing living soil (more on that later). Starting with compost whiz Ruben, Jesse offered space in his yard for a compost system that others could contribute to and share the bounty of the compost.
So what's the point of a Hive?
The point of a Hive is to:
- Have a way to share food with each other, for surviving and thriving.
If you live in an apartment like me, you know how tough (read: impossible) it would be to have chickens! Having an opportunity to be part of a Hive though, someone in your hive has their own eggs from chickens, and, with your help through perhaps seed starting, or raising worms for the chickens, or helping in some other way... you make a symbiotic friendship where everyone wins...and you get access to the freshest eggs from chickens you know and love. This is just one little example of how we can thrive with a hive.
When a pandemic hits, then an ice storm, power outage, water outage & boil water notice...suddenly going to the grocery store isn't so easy, and half the food is gone! How nice would it be to be part of a community that supports each other? I had micro-greens I could have shared...and yet I don't know a single soul in my apartment complex! I would love to change that. With Jesse's hive, he was able to harvest and share what he grew with the Hive.
- Create a gift economy from the wisdom of history and the power of nature.
For most of human history, all of the riches and abundance of wealth in a civilization was dependent on healthy, living soil. Time after time, when a civilization eroded the health of the soil, everything else collapsed along with it.
It turns out that, despite eroding our soils at a faster rate than ever before, we can still get food at the grocery store, if we're okay with...
Tremendous food waste tucked out-of-sight...
Nutritionally empty food grown from depleted soil (lettuce looses 80% of its nutrition within 24hrs of being harvested, from soil that doesn't have what it needs to even bring lettuce to it fulls flavor and nutritional potential)
The boring, empty experience of buying a "product" of food compared to sharing the joys of growing or helping grow blackberries you pick ripe off the vine.
Even on organic farms...you'll find the soil has been depleted of most of the minerals and microorganisms that a neighborhood garden has in abundance. Even in perfect growing conditions, many produce items lose their 80% of their nutrition with 24 hours of cutting...3 weeks later, when the truck arrives at the grocery store, what is really left?
SOOOoooo...by starting a gift economy based on living, thriving, regenerative soil...
We, instead of social injustice, actually care for the person who grows some of our food, because we live almost next door.
None of our food gets wasted: it just goes back into the soil.
We can eat tremendously healthy, alive, food from rich, living soil. The basis of health.
And on and on it goes.
- Reduce Waste, Turn Food Waste Into
- Meet your neighbors for a good reason
- Draw on the collective wisdom and resources of the community
How is this different from a community garden?
With a community garden, you are renting a garden plot and depending on the circumstances, you might be totally on your own with no help to succeed. When Chris joined a community garden, he realized quickly that there were almost no "community" events where he could get help. Fortunately, as a total plant-nerd, he garnered enough energy and enthusiasm from many years of plant love and connections with other resources to overcome the lack of built in help.
Yes, there are garden clubs, but the meeting times don't always work and you may find people in garden clubs aren't at all interested in growing food, or sharing resources, or anything like that...they could be interested in just having a pretty landscape, or an intellectual conversation (which is great! but a Thrive Hive gives you so much more).
So with a Thrive Hive, you'll not only get the benefits of being part of a community garden, but you'll also be growing what you can, benefitting from the help of others, and contributing to one another's well being along the way. So if you have a backyard, but a brown thumb, and let's say you join the Lakeline Hive, you'll see how you can begin caring your soil (or container soil) and growing your own food. You're going to love the flexibility, education and community support that you find in a Thrive Hive.
How is this different from a garden club?
A garden club will have many members, perhaps in the hundreds, and the focus can be in many different directions...so one day you might volunteer at a school, another day you'll help set up a plant sale, etc. The Thrive-Hive has a very specific purpose: to grow vibrant food from living soil that we cultivate and share together. You can, in your own Hive, add on to that (like chickens, or cut flowers, etc) but the primary focus is sharing effort and resources together to take care of whatever patch of earth we have access to right now.
How is this different from the "Shared Earth" website?
Here's what Chris has to say:
The Shared Earth is a website for gardeners to landowners and farmers.
I was super excited to try that website out, found someone close by, went to her place, and then realized that I was going to invest all my time and resources into a piece of land that I had no control over. When I asked to sit down and discuss details, she was against it. I had the feeling that I was being treated like a landscaper to make someone a garden except I wasn't getting paid. Everyone else I contacted, simply didn't answer.
I realized, at that point, that I needed to work in my own space, but have help, and give help. That means that, if I lived close to Jesse, I might help grow seed starts, contribute to the compost pile, and he might give me compost.
So in this way, anyone in a Hive (or in my Hive at least) will go through the steps together so that no one feels in an overly-vulnerable position (like I did with that one lady) but instead we empower self-reliance and helpful inter-dependence with each other.
Okay, I'm curious to try this! What's the easiest small step to get started?
If you live within a 5-mile radius or so by Central Market off Lamar...then you'll fill out a survey coming soon (subscribe to be notified). Then that will let Jesse know (part of the S Lamar-Hive) what you'd like to offer and what you'd love help with to get started building living soil or help enable others in your Hive to more easily grow some garden life.
If you don't live near there...send me a message below! I can save you A TON OF EFFORT AND WORK that I had to put in to figure out how/where/who in Austin is working towards this same objective...and how to get involved.
What if I don't live in either of those areas?
Chris and Jesse will host discussion groups with the aim to help you start your own, or help you connect with gardeners in your area so you can work together to get started. So subscribe below to get notified so you can join!
I feel skittish, I feel not-ready yet...but I'm interested...what do I do?
Easy, we'll host some discussion groups so you can get a feel for who we are, you can subscribe below so you can see our story of how we are working to put this together, and of course...drop me a line below to let me know what is holding you back from filling out a survey or joining a discussion group, maybe we can help!
Subscribe to the Austin Thrive Hives so you can start growing living soil, natural friendships and really good food with a little less struggle 😉
What if I don't have any experience with gardening or anything to offer?
If you don't know how to make compost, if you've killed every plant you've ever grown, don't worry: each hive will have someone who is a few steps ahead of you, to get you started. If you hate the sight of soil and worms, there are many different ways you can contribute. As part of a Hive, we'll work together to find win-wins, filling out the application will help heaps.
Who can and can't join a Hive?
Soil takes time, so you'll have be living in Austin and in the same neighborhood, for at least the upcoming year ahead. There are few other requirements that you'll be able to see in the application for the individual Hives.
Is this a rag-tag group of beginning gardeners or people who want to support gardeners, or is this an established organization?
This is both a rag-tag group of beginning gardeners, with some REALLY experienced landscapers, gardeners, farmers, etc. that have offered input in group discussions. So yay.
Do I have to pay to join a hive?
No, the gift economy is all about sharing resources together.
What is minimum number of people and things needed to form a Hive?
You need at least:
- One person with access to land...a community garden plot, a backyard, etc.
- One person who has at least some experience with gardening
- One person who can put a plan of action for creating compost/soil that satifies the needs of the soil and each other.
- They all need to live fairly close to each other...for the S Lamar Hive, the requirement is a 5-mile radius, for the Lakeline Hive, no more than a 10min drive from each other (if your 15 or 20 though, we'll make it work)