The cramped, dimly lit basement of Clifton Unitarian Church seems the last place a potential farming community would begin. But there we were, watching from the back of the room as people poured in on the morning of February 20 to learn more about 15Thousand Farmers, a grassroots, community movement forming in Louisville, KY.
Such movements are common in this city known for its passion and can-do attitude, but this event was exceptional. A seemingly endless stream of aspiring backyard farmers filled literally every empty space in the room, most standing.
Sitting in our highly coveted chairs, Gary Heine, a 15Thousand Farmers founding sponsor and co-owner of Louisville’s Heine Brothers’ Coffee, explained the vision of this new organization to create and support 15,000 organic backyard farmers in Louisville. It will provide everything necessary for anyone to start a simple, organic backyard garden – easy instructions, materials, support from volunteers and a website where farmers can connect and support each other.
“The problems of the world are so big, how could I possibly make a difference?” he asked, before explaining the benefits of a “kindergarten level” backyard garden.
1) It feeds you.
2) It feeds others.
Unless you’re planning to eat all of your meals alone, which we discourage, your garden will likely feed friends, family, neighbors, and maybe even strangers, if you choose.
3) It saves you money.
Growing food from seeds is always cheaper than buying from your local grocery, but if you typically buy organic fruits and vegetables, the difference is even more pronounced when you grow your own.
4) It gives you control.
When you’re growing it in your backyard, you don’t have to worry about the many roads your food has traveled before putting it in your mouth.
5) It reduces dependence on foreign oil.
You’re not using foreign oil if your food isn’t traveling to the local big box store via semi truck. Imagine the difference when at least 14,999 other people make the same choice.
5) It creates community.
The online community, meetings, and events related to the project bring people and neighborhoods together around a common interest.
6) It connects you with nature.
When was the last time you touched the ground? Picked a flower? Yeah, we thought so. Gardening is one of the best ways to get back in touch with the beauty and generosity of nature. When you are able to eat something that you planted, cared for, and harvested, you’ll develop a new found sense of awe at this amazing process of getting your food from seed to table.
After looking at the points outlined above, it’s easy to see how one person can make a difference — and you don’t even need a yard at all to be a backyard farmer, just four square feet. One of the easiest ways to get started is to use the Square Foot Gardening technique developed by Mel Bartholomew. With a 4×4 box, garden soil, and seeds, you can grow maximal amounts of food with minimal, space, effort and time. Just “look at it every day, and touch it every other day to see if it needs moisture,” said a veteran square foot gardener at the 15Thousand Farmers informational meeting.
With no patch of grass to call our own, we’ll join the 15,000 by trying square foot gardening on our balcony this spring. For more information about 15Thousand Farmers and resources to help you get started, visit www.15thousandfarmers.com.
Backyard gardening is a thriving movement in communities around the country, including New Orleans, Portland, Seattle and Detroit. If there isn’t a group like 15Thousand Farmers available by you, start one! We think once you started asking around, you’d be surprised at how many of your friends and neighbors would be interested in this idea.