Home Food Gardening Surge Credited to Economy; 7 Million More Families Take Up Hoes in 2009

by Carol Bengle Gilbert

One unsurprising spinoff of the current economic recession is a double-digit increase in the percentage of home gardeners planting their own food. The National Gardening Association reported Thursday that its survey, The Impact of Home and Community Gardening in America, revealed a jump from 10% to 19% of households planning to grow their own food in 2009. That increase represents 7 million American families taking the plunge to become vegetable gardeners.

The expected total of American families growing their own food in 2009: 43 million. The National Gardening Association reports that Americans choosing to grow their own food can expect to save an average of $500, taking into account both the costs of gardening and the costs of buying fresh produce. Home gardening is of interest not only to families with backyards; urban dwellers have long rented space at next-to-no-cost in community gardens in many cities.

And now Sharing Backyards has emerged in five U.S. cities, encouraging those with unused yard space suitable for gardening to invite apartment dwellers with an interest in gardening to sow and reap to their mutual benefit.

Community Gardens in Washington, DC

Washington DC has 32 community gardens, according to Community Walk, spread throughout the city. The Community Walk site offers a clickable map showing the address and contact information for the administrator of each community garden. The District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation operates two community gardens with a total of 60 plots and charges farmers $20 for the plot.

Sharing Backyards = New Option in Washington, DC

Washington DC is one of the newest cities to join Sharing Backyards. With the Sharing Backyards program in its infancy here, the identification of yard owners with garden space to share has not caught up with the demand for garden space. The Sharing Backyards website map shows approximately 11 available garden spaces and 30 wannabe urban gardeners in the city proper along with a few strays in the suburbs.The Sharing Backyards garden share concept is designed on the simple premise of voluntarily making urban food garden space available to those who will use it. By matching urban residents with unused potential gardening space with urban would-be-gardeners living in premises without access to garden space, the Sharing Backyards program aims to feed both gardener and garden owner healthy, fresh produce.

The Sharing Backyards urban gardening program started in Canada two years ago and so far operates only in a handful of locales: Victoria, Vancouver, Halifax, Portland, Nanaimo, Cleveland, Washington DC, and Maple Ridge. Canadian economist Patrick Hayes is the idea man behind Sharing Backyards. In a straightforward utility analysis, Hayes concluded that Sharing Backyards was the answer to 57% of Canadians underutilizing their potential growing spaces while another 43% lived in housing lacking yard access.

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