Context – The Why
This is the fourth blog in my series about becoming ‘future ready. The focus is on how these communities can become sustainable regarding food supply. But first, let me anchor this in a larger future vision. Here are two predictions taken from Stephan Schwartz and his work with remote viewing. By 2060 (or much sooner, in my estimation), he sees the following:
“Lifestyles seem much more minimalist, more like the Nordic or Dutch aesthetic.”
“People have largely reorganized into small communities.”
Accompanying these food production or agriculture changes also shifts from large-scale agribusiness to smaller community cooperatives. Residents have become ‘locavores.’
“The definition of a locavore is someone who chooses to eat food grown locally. One who mainly eats locally produced food, especially within a specified radius of one’s home. “
The What and How Much
Growing some of your own food in a tiny home community can take on two different forms: a private residential plot and a community garden. Here are some details on both conditions.
Small residential plots can provide a wide range of vegetables and herbs. It depends on the plant hardiness range you live in, your exposure to sunlight, and pest control. I have three raised beds fabricated from horse watering tanks which measure 2 feet by 6 feet each. So, a total of 36 square feet produces about 50% fresh veggies for a two-person household. Prepared for dehydration and canning that’s enough to last from one growing season to the next.
We live in a temperature zone (Southern Arizona), so we get two growings a year. Metered drip irrigation costs approximately $3/month. What would you do with 80 lbs of tomatoes? 20 lbs. of kale?
The next step up would be a community garden tended by several neighbors of the community cooperative space I alluded to in the last blog. Studies show a 6:1 return on investment and an increase in property values averaging 9%. You can expect to get about two servings of veggies per square foot at this level.
How Can You Do This?
Not everyone is born with a ‘green thumb.’ There are some small, simple steps you can follow to get started.
First, start small and experiment.
This can be as easy as a few flower pots on a balcony or front porch. One plant per plot surrounded by wire mesh if you have a critter issue.
Have a plan
Make a sketch of what you want, allowing for plant spacing and walk-around access to tend the plants. Get your local nursery to review it and give you some hints for your locale.
Join a ‘garden club.’
If you are new to serious gardening, think about finding and joining a ‘garden club’ a quick local Google search and checking with the State Department of Agriculture should locate what you need.
Make friends with your local plant store.
If your tiny home community employs a landscaper or gardener for common areas, that’s your best bet. These are invaluable sources of knowledge and help. It’s their business to help you become successful.
Get smart about organics.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it takes some work. Growing organic takes more effort than commercial fertilizers and herbicides, but it’s the healthy alternative.
You can feed yourself, and it’s healthier. Every time I have this discussion with folks, I get this quizzical look and then something like, “Oh, you mean like my grandparents did?” Another example of using ancient wisdom to be future ready.
Practice on yourself and be patient. It took me a few growing cycles to figure out the best mix, timing, watering regimens, and fertilizer mix (e.g., Starbucks coffee grounds ratio to horse manure) before I got to maximum production.
You might also find out that no one in your household really, really likes broccoli. That’s OK; substitute kale and chard plants.
Then you can scale up to your community, should your neighbors be so inclined. I guarantee a couple of bags of tomatoes and peppers given away will spur their interest.
Good luck, and may the green be with you.
John Denver’s thoughts on gardens: