On Tuesday, January 29, the folks at Austin Green Drinks sponsored their monthly meet up at In.gredients on Manor Road. Green Drinks brings together environmentally conscious Austinites once a month to visit, network, enjoy drinks at a 'green' oriented business and listen to a guest speaker.
The speaker at this month's event was Paige Hill, founder and director of Urban Patchwork. The motto for the organization is "Growing Food and Community in the City". Urban Patchwork is a 'neighborhood based, community run urban agricultural network' that assists residents in turning unused yard areas (front and/or back) into organic food producing areas. These gardens make use of gardening best practices such as raised beds, moisture retention and natural pest control. One of the main goals of Urban Patchwork is to create a strong sense of community that will benefit the entire neighborhood and to bring a food culture to these neighborhoods by sharing knowledge and skills. They are truly 'community gardens'. The organization currently supports gardens in three Austin neighborhoods:
- Violet Crown in the North Central area of the city
- Wooten on the North side
- Cherrywood near Manor Road (In.gredients has some beds in front of the store also)
How can a neighborhood become part of Urban Patchwork? The very first step is actually community organizing. Because this is ultimately an effort that involves the whole neighborhood and requires widespread, active participation with a long term commitment, it is important to enlist willing participants before you start digging. The next step is to contact Urban Patchwork. They will require you to choose a Resident Farm Manager and participate in their two year Farm Manager Apprentice Program. This program provides hands on training in farming techniques and community organizing.
Why should neighborhoods become involved in this effort? It has been reported that 'less than 1% of our food is produced where 80% of the population lives'. Local food production benefits both the environment and the producer in the following ways:
- Reduces cost of living
- Increases quality of life
- Increases value of land
- Improves ecosystem with sustainable soil and habitats
- Consumers become producers
- Creates stable, sustainable community
If you are not able to take on the long term commitment of a community garden, there are still ways to become involved with Urban Patchwork. They do offer workshops whose topics include nutrition, food growing and food storage. Another path to take is that of volunteering and there are several levels of commitment available. They offer opportunities for school, church, civic, research and service learning projects. You can also participate in the program as an occasional volunteer where you would help out at one of the neighborhood gardens. You may be asked to help plant, harvest, build structures and a variety of other chores. These opportunities are listed on their website calendar. Choose a date, RSVP to let them know you are coming and show up ready to work.
For the hard core, you can apply for seasonal apprenticeships or their "Work UP an Appetite" program. The requirements for this program include previous volunteer time with them and a commitment to put in 6 or more hours a week for a four month season. Your reward is a weekly share of the food that is harvested and the knowledge that you are doing something good for the neighborhood and its people.
Let's get involved in our neighborhoods, our environment and our food.