Yard for Share: My Hyperlocavore Garden

When the web connects gardeners with available land, surprising things can happen. Pamela Chang on the fresh food, new skills, and friendships she gained when she offered to share her land with a neighbor.
Tomato Bunch, photo by qmnonic

Photo by qmnonic.

The pea, radish, lettuce, and quinoa sprouts have emerged in my new backyard garden, outracing the chervil, cilantro, carrot, and chard seeds—and Wayde Lawler, my new-found Hyperlocavore buddy, is responsible for all this.

Wayde and I found each other via Hyperlocavore, a website that matches landless gardeners with land hosts. Wayde is a horticulture student at Merritt College in Oakland, CA; I'm a hobby gardener. For the past two years, I've ceded my small backyard to the resident deer, and settled for a 15-gallon tub on the deck with a pair of cherry tomatoes and some climbing green beans.

My inspiration for signing up with Hyperlocavore came from a February 21, 2010 presentation put on by Transition Albany, a local group trying to make Albany, Ca. more self-sufficient. The presentation included the movie HomeGrown, which documents a family in Pasadena, Ca. that–incredibly—grows three tons of food annually on 1/5th of an acre of urban land. Afterward, Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, spoke about her garden on squatted land in Oakland, Ca. where her neighbors are welcome to come pick what they need. I don't intend to raise a ton of food on my not quite 1/10th of an acre parcel, but if someone else were to take the lead, I thought we might have some fun installing a garden together.

The serendipity gods were surely hovering when I posted my Hyperlocavore request. Wayde Lawler was the only person looking for a North Berkeley site on that day; the following Sunday we met in my weedy backyard to look at the available space and my incomplete effort at a deer-proof fence. On Thursday, Wayde arrived with a borrowed pick-up and a cubic yard of planting soil. He whacked my weeds and planned the beds and we both schlepped buckets. By the end of the day, we had garden beds topped with partly-decomposed straw mulch occupying a 12 by 14 foot space.

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I like Wayde. In the month since, we've strengthened and completed the bamboo-lattice deer fence, begun planting, and begun to know each other. Aside from his ability to envision an idea, figure out a way to accomplish it, and follow through, I like his Midwestern low-key politeness. I liked meeting his wife, Taryn, and sharing returned Peace Corps volunteer reminiscences on the day that we sowed “goosefoot” (that is, plants like spinach, chard, and beet from the Chenopodiaceae family) seeds. I enjoyed having Wayde as our waiter when my housemate and I visited the restaurant where he worked, and I appreciate his stop-in for a first time experience at my community acupuncture clinic.

Although we haven't any formal agreement for sharing either the garden or its produce, I am not worried. So far, it has evolved that I provide land, water, and some labor—and Wayde provides expertise, labor, and inspiration. He brings his own tools although he is welcome to use mine, and he has paid for soil, plants, and seeds while I've bought a couple lunches. From what I can tell, we both feel we are gaining more than we are giving.

My Hyperlocavore experience to date has been entirely positive. But I can imagine scenarios where, as with any human interaction, it could have been sour. I'm glad that I had the courage to try something new. I'm glad to know Wayde and Taryn. And I'm looking forward to a summer of gardening—while shrinking my carbon footprint.


More and more neighborhoods are making the transition to a climate-friendly community. Has yours?

Healthy food is the foundation of social justice, says Will Allen. And he knows, because he grows a lot of both.

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