I want to give you an idea of how *I* came to be interested in community development and community gardens. In 2006 I took a job teaching English to business students at a University in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. This is a primarily rural area of Thailand that sits on what were at the time developing trade routes between Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Myanmar and China. At the same time that I went there, there was another thing going on at the University. They had agreed on a collaboration with a group of Lay Buddhists living in community at a Local Buddhist Monastery. Many of the people were very well educated and had had very good paying professions but found that their lives were missing something. They gave all of that up to live in community where they grew all of their own food, wove their cloth, made their clothes, made simplified farming equipment that the rural farmers could afford and taught them natural ways of managing their farms that cost less, and were kinder to the environment. To deal with the over abundance of food that they grew, they opened restaurants that fed people for what that they could afford to pay.
Back in 2007 I decided to work on a PhD. I wanted to look at businesses and their relationship with building community. I found seven businesses in the Denver area that I spent time back in the States studying that were all based on building community. The one I want to tell you about doesn't really exist anymore as a business but has morphed into The Living Systems Institute. You can read more about David Braden, He was just at the beginning of this process. He had sold his law firm and was doing primarily permaculture landscape design. Denver is high plains and semi-arid. The main problem is that the people living there liked (still like?) to have landscaping around their homes that looks like Better Homes and Gardens....and blue grass and many flowers require LOTS of water. He was out to landscape people's properties with native plants that were suitable to the climate. While he was driving around Denver trying to get this business going, he was also looking for vacant or unused lots. He would then contact the people who owned them (particularly if they were businesses or churches) and see if they would allow him to put community gardens there. He would go in and build beds that were heavily mulched and had automatic drip irrigation systems in. He planted the gardens and the people came. And communities developed.
I want to try to entice you to read more about permaculture with a variation of an image that is displayed in a lot of different forms across the internet.
Permaculture is about working with the environment - the WHOLE environment - the people (individuals, jobs, culture) and the place (geographic and culturally). It is concerned with not only growing food, but how, who does the work, how they work together, and how the food is distributed and the remains disposed of. I invite you to have an extended look at the picture at the top of the page. I have come to like WHOLE stories rather than little bits and pieces that someone else wants to decide I should see.