The community garden in Ithaca, NY, chock-full of veggie goodness!
With its long history of promoting meat, eggs and dairy, the USDA is usually not at the top of our “Favorite Government Agencies” list. But sometimes, it does something we really like, such as when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this month that August 23–29 would be declared “National Community Gardening Week.”
“Community gardens provide numerous benefits including opportunities for local food production, resource conservation, and neighborhood beautification," said Vilsack. "But they also promote family and community interaction and enhance opportunities to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Each of these benefits is something we can and should strive for."
Friends and neighbors coming together to cultivate fresh local produce is something we can all agree is a step towards a more sustainable – and more plant-based – American diet. But there’s something that’s even better than a community garden, and that something is a veganic community garden!
If you’re new to the idea, veganic gardening is the practice of growing food crops using methods that are not only organic (free of GMOs and nasty chemicals), but also free of animal exploitation. Sadly, most “just-plain-organic” agriculture in the U. S. relies heavily on animal-based fertilizers such as manure, blood meal and bone meal. Yuck. We can do better.
While many organic enthusiasts believe that you need manure to grow your organic veggies, it just isn’t so! In fact, many cultures, past and present, have sustained their fields without chemicals or manure, simply because they didn’t have an enormous animal industry desperately trying to dispose of its smelly mountains of waste. Think about it. Do you think Native Americans growing the three sisters (corn, beans and squash) had large hog and dairy farms to supply their fields with truckloads of animal poop? Uh-uh.
So, now that you are in on this little secret, it’s time to share the knowledge.
First, locate a community garden near you. The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) has a convenient database to help you out. Just plug in your zip code and see what’s growing in your neighborhood. Talk to your local garden coordinators and see how you can get involved.
If you live in a temperate zone, it may be too late to have a veganic plot this year, but investing your labor during this year’s harvest season can earn the respect of your fellow gardeners. When you show up at meeting to plan next year’s garden, you’ll have more influence. (Going to the meeting with some yummy vegan brownies couldn’t hurt your case either. ) Use the time between now and then to brush up on – or learn the basics of – veganic agriculture. To help you get started, check out the Veganic Agriculture Network and this excellent “how-to” from the Vegan Society.
“But, what if there is no community garden in my neighborhood?” you ask. Why, lucky you! That means you can get in on the ground floor and start your own community garden! As a founding member, you’ll have the clout to make sure things are done veganically from day one. The ACGA has a terrific guide on how do launch your own community garden right here. So enjoy celebrating National Community Garden Week, and start hatching plans now for a truly humane garden in 2010.
For more suggestions, see the Tips on Veganic Gardening on our "Tools and Resources" page.