Gardening, Sharing, Building Community: On-Line & In The Garden

In my experience, gardening is a motivating and compelling force to bring people together. Even with our time and attention constantly split and fractured, we still find ways to come together over gardening – perhaps particularly so over food gardening. While there are pros and cons to the ever increasing presence of technology in our lives, many gardeners have found that technology can be an incredible boon to our gardening knowledge and resources and connections. Photo: Members of Chico Garden Share Project at a project-hosted permaculture workshop “Making Bokashi and Creating a Winter Garden with Sheet Mulch”. Members shown include Chun of Agb Biotics, Rosie, Wendy and Joseph Wiklund, Leslie Wilson Corsbie, Laurie Niles and Monica Bell.

But what does it do to our real-life engagement and connections with our actual gardens and with other gardeners? People are social creatures at heart and we are ingenious at finding ways to come together. Many gardeners have found ways to leverage technology – specifically their computers, their smart phones and even social media like Facebook to help to bring them together, and propel them forward. Julie Butler is the brave, bright and energetic person who founded a group called Chico Garden Share Project – a wonderful model of how like-minded, activist people can come together in the virtual-world and create a caring, connected community in the real world and in real gardens in their community. Photo: Chico Garden Share’s profile picture on Facebook.

Butler planted the seed of the Chico Garden Share Project in December of 2010 when she created a Facebook page and persona called Chico Garden Share in order to create a nexus for sharing ideas in the Chico area. By October of 2011, when Chico Garden Share was profiled in the Chico News & Review by Claire Hutkins Seda, Julie (as Chico Garden Share) had close to 2000 Facebook “friends” in her own community and around the world. By early 2012, Chico Garden Share had more than 2500 “friends” and Julie began directing most of this online energy into the Chico Garden Share Project page – the more localized aspect of the idea. Photo: Julie Butler at a Chico Garden Share Project Living Soils workshop at the Worm Farm in Durham. Julie’s grandfather was the founder of the renowned Worm Farm.

With 739 members currently, Chico Garden Share Project is growing right along. This weekend, <strong>In a North State Garden has the fun and pleasure of interviewing Julie Butler and her friend and Chico Garden Share Project collaborator Leslie Wilson Corsbie, of Performance Landscape & Design, “a permaculture-influenced landscape company based in Chico, about their motivations and goals.

Photo: The importance of good, living soil cannot be over-emphasized.

What is Chico Garden Share Project?

Chico Garden Share Project: “The Chico Garden Share Project is a Facebook group where people interested in food gardening can freely share information and experience online, and create events in order to get together in the real world and help each with their gardens.” People post questions, events, announcements, links to articles and ideas, photos of their own gardens, calls for help in their own or their community gardens, they post things for barter, crops to share, problems to solve, potlucks and seed swaps and garden classes and workshops to attend.

What was the original impetus for starting it?

Chico Garden Share Project: “I was worried about the environment and the economy, and what the future held for my kids. A friend had sent me a video about Permaculture (which means Permanent Agriculture and Permanent Culture), and it was called “Greening the Desert”. What I saw completely astounded and inspired me – With permaculture design techniques, right next to the Dead Sea, they were able to capture water from the air and collect it into the ground for their plants. Soon, an actually self-sustaining food-forest was growing, which boggled my mind. For once, I could see solutions, and they were solutions to healing the earth that we could all be active participants in, which also happened to feed us. So, I just went for it, and started the group.”

In your mind, why is this of critical importance to our community and our world right now?

Chico Garden Share Project: “Food gardening and farming using permaculture design provides a way to live sustainably upon the planet, no matter what the population, number one. So, it is critically important that people are aware of these possibilities and opportunities, and that they begin to realize that there is something they can do themselves in their own community to actually help the entire planet. When we garden, we become life-givers. But for the key to our success and the way to achieve maximum results, we need to focus on feeding and promoting the life in the soil. Once your garden is built up with living soil, your plants will naturally get all of the nutrition they need. The beauty of it is, it can be as simple as placing cardboard on your yard and keeping it moist – weeds will be stopped, and the soil will come alive. You can put compost on top of that, and plant directly into it, without digging or anything. So simple!”

What are you hopes for the future of the project?

Chico Garden Share Project: “2011 was spent promoting the group and bringing people together there, and building sheet mulch gardens at people’s homes with the group. This year (2012), I’m going to be spending less time on promotion and organizing, so that other people feel free to take the initiative to invent and create events themselves, and enjoy the camaraderie of the group, and making new friends in real life.”

Good gardening, good works, good friends in real life. Good goals to strive for – in the garden and on-line.

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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Barbara N. says:

    Awesome idea…but even after the idea it takes work. There was a group that planted an orchard below Kids Kingdom. I guess it didn't have the volunteers or whatever was needed, because now all of the fruit trees they planted are struggling for survival. Sometimes I walk my dog down there and I'm always drawn to it. It's fenced, the signs are down and the trees look so sad, most of them are dead. I had visions of fruit that would be distributed to the food banks, that was the purpose of the orchard. It was a good idea, but I guess it didn't pan out. Best of luck to everyone in your community garden efforts.

  2. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    Interesting observation and confirmed here at risk of being again labeled as callous and uncaring. The Enterprise Community Fruit Garden was a collective endeavor to help People of Progress and was co sponsored by Rotary Club of Redding which did almost all of the infrastructure work, planting, fencing and provided some of the cost of the trees. My first question was, "Who will care for the trees after they are planted so that the poor can have fresh fruit?" I was assured this ongoing labor would be done by those who would directly benefit. The dead trees are silent testimony to a "Twilight Zone" expectation today when almost everything is given without any need for responsibility. Many will find excuses, explanations, reasons to shoot the messenger; but the real culprit belongs to us all. "Party On, Garth!"

  3. A community garden is a great idea….IF you have people that will Commit to helping out….there is nothing like a fresh tomato or a fresh cantaloupe etc….but all this comes with work…ideas are good…..the follow through and commitment to take an idea into the future with success and co operation and hard work-Priceless!

    A true commitment (and there are few) has no way out….. if there is a way out….it's not a commitment! It's a promise…..and we all know about promises….no new taxes….check is in the mail…..

    Great idea….but it will take the right individuals to make it work….and work for the long haul! Those with enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing…


    Richard Goates

  4. Avatar Barbara N. says:

    The saddest part of this orchard to me was they put in irrigation to the trees. The weeds and the trees could have probably survived together just fine. Maybe a little pruning in the beginning. Trees have a way of surviving, they just needed some water… I don't know why they would put the irrigation in, and nobody turned it on. Sad. The community garden right next to it is always thriving, people do come down and work it, but I think they are doing it for themselves, more then for the food bank. I've often wondered, is it really a community garden, to harvest fresh fruit and vegetables for themselves, the food banks, and the community, or just a plot of land that they can call their own. I guess it is just how you might describe a community garden.

  5. Jennifer Jewell Jennifer Jewell says:

    I have certainly seen both models of "community gardens" – we called them "pea patches" when I lived in Seattle, WA. In that model – the people all had their own little patches that they cared for and enjoyed the bounty of, but they offered as they were able their excess to others – with in the group or the local food banks/church kitchens, etc. But I do find these ideas of commitment and follow-through to be one of the elements to be considered at the outset of any endeavor – small businesses, small non-profits, arts organizations, restaurants, etc. We can't all predict what will or won't happen, but to get out there and try – with as much diverse and built-in help, opinions, perspectives and true investment (time & money & need for the product in question) from the target audience, is a brave act of hope. We won't succeed if we don't try. The failures – especially in the form of dead trees or neglected land – can be deflating. But I am also incredibly impressed with the results of the successes – like the Shasta Community Teaching Garden, the Trinity Heritage Orchard Project and the Young Family Farm in Weaverville, the Bell Tower Plaza in Red Bluff, the historic Camden Orchards in Whiskeytown and so many more. Modeling in some way

    on the successes can only help the ones starting out.

  6. Avatar Barbara N. says:

    Thank you for pointing out the different types of community gardens. I so agree with your last sentence, and once again hope for the best for all of the participants. Love your articles too, by the way 🙂