Gardening Match Making
Eligible gardeners will want to read this. With Valentine’s Day approaching, romance seems to be on the radar most everywhere.
Gardeners are really no different than other people in this regard: a little intrigue adds flavour to any story. Some years ago, I decided that it would be great fun to invite listeners to my phone-in radio show to call in with their credentials, should they be looking for a garden-mate. Tell me wherein your gardening interest lies, what you are looking for in a like-minded gardener and let listeners respond if they so choose.
We only gave contact information if a caller gave us permission. One ‘mature’ woman called from Uxbridge to say that her husband had died 14 years before. He had left her with a sizeable stash of garden gear, including a rototiller that was left standing in the vegetable garden. She asked, “Is there a man out there who can get my rototiller started?”
After a good laugh she hung up and I decided that I had better quit while I was ahead: I never repeated the theme. But we sure had some fun that day!
The idea of creating a relationship by exposing a shared interest is not a new one. For the last seven years the good people at The Stop Community Food Centre, here in Toronto, have offered a free match-making service for people who wish to garden but do not have access to a piece of property and property owners who don’t have the time or physical ability to put their soil to work for them. The idea brings soil and gardeners together, not necessarily people.
‘Yes In My Back Yard’ is a fascinating story about how an excess resource (real estate) and a willingness to use it (gardeners without real estate) can win-win. Let me be clear: this is not a ‘match-making’ service according to the common understanding of the words. I repeat: real estate and people are brought together. It all begins with an e mail or phone call to Mik Turje, the coordinator of the YIMBY program at The Stop.
If you are a home owner with a back yard that is underutilized, you may want to consider offering it up to people who will till the soil and plant some veggies in it. They may even share some of them with you (more on that in a moment). Here are the criteria for property selection:
– must be a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight
– hours of access to your yard are negotiable, but you have to provide reasonable access in order for the gardeners to get their work done
– access to your house washrooms, garden shed and your tools is your option
– access to water is essential
– you may wish to discuss ‘organic’ vs. ‘inorganic’ methods of plant cultivation, if this is important to you, though The Stop encourages people to grow organically
After an initial meeting with the prospective gardener(s) you will have to trust them. A ‘one pager’ is provided that outlines the understanding between gardener/land owner. Mik emphasises that each ‘contract’ is different as each arrangement is different.
Aspiring gardeners who access private back yards through the program are expected to respect the rights of the property owner: to clean up after each work session, to not disturb the peace and to offer to share some produce with the home owner. In short: be nice and courteous.
Participants in YIMBY are invited to free workshops that are offered by The Stop that help them get started on their growing experience.
Mik reminded me that, “The Stop is committed to providing food access and food security for all. We attack the root cause of hunger.” It seems to me that YIMBY is the perfect answer for those who wish to grow their own food but are unable to due to access to land.
Some other facts:
– there are currently 40 ‘back yards’ involved in the program with demand for many more
– 30 people on the waiting list for access to ‘backyards’
– boundaries for YIMBY are Bloor St. to Rogers/Vaughn Road (north/south) and Bathurst to Dundas W./Old Weston Road (east/west). Mik is clear that if you have property available for public access outside of this boundary, they can direct you to a backyard sharing website where you can look for matches on your own.
– there is no minimum size for a backyard to be eligible for the program
– The cost of remediation (soil, fertilizer, etc.) is generally mostly paid for by the host because it adds value to their own property. The gardener helps by putting in the labour, though often the gardener and host will work together.
Mik arranges for access to soil, organic fertilizer and mulch at a reduced price as they buy in quantity. Each garden match gets a tray full of free organic seedlings from The Stop’s greenhouse in the spring.
Is there a ‘social’ side to this equation? “Well, yes. We actually have two people who met through our YIMBY program who fell in love and now live together.”
Details about YIMBY at www.thestop.org