Our lease is up at the end of the summer, so the beginning of May seems like a good time to start house hunting in earnest. While we've gone back and forth on many characteristics we'd like in our home of our own, a very large and sunny yard has remained a constant. I've dismissed more than a few beautiful, resonably priced homes in walkable neighborhoods because the lot wasn't quite big enough or there were too many trees. Kind of crazy, especially considering how important shade is to one's comfort level through our long, hot Texas summers.
Last night I went to a community meeting, and had a mini-epiphany. Yes, a big sunny yard would be awesome, but why not grow food and community in a shared garden in my neighborhood?
Yesterday was Austin's Second Annual Community Gardens Tour. I didn't actually go on the tour (poseur alert!) because I was still feeling sort of delicate after a debilitating migraine swept me off my feet on Saturday, but by 6 PM Sunday evening, I was thinking I could handle sitting in on a panel discussion.
The Sustainable Food Center, The Coalition of Austin Community Gardens, and the Congress for the New Urbanism presented the tour, a local foods potluck and the panel discussion and I'm so glad I went.
There are approximately 30 community gardens here in Austin, but there could definitely stand to be more in a city of this size. Also, some of those gardens are on private land or state owned land, which can have their drawbacks. Festival Gardens in East Austin had to move this year, due to its land being sold and the South Austin Community Garden's situation seems a little tenous at the moment. To that end, the city just passed a couple of resolutions to make it even easier to start a garden in your neighborhood on city owned property or designated park land.
There's a pamphlet available through the city's website that will take you step by step through the process and the city has just hired a staff person to specifically work with community members on sustainable urban agriculture. There are now waivers available for water tap fees, including the waiving of waste water fees. This is huge! I know the waste water charges on my residential water bill are probably about half of my monthly fee, and it makes no sense to charge these fees for gardeners who are promoting the insoak of water back into Austin's water table.
Best News of the Night? One of the requirements of a city supported community garden is the incorporation of water conservation, composting and integrated pest management practices! The city's not just promoting urban agriculture, it's effectively requiring urban agriculture be organic!
If you're interested, the Sustainable Food Center is offering a Community Garden Leadership Training workshop on June 11th. You can bet I'll be there! Join me?