Turning Japanese

April 3rd

Grow tomatoes~

The Japanese have a tradition called teikei — which means partnership, or cooperation. They have teikei farms where the consumer and the farmer meet; these are farmer’s markets of sort, but it is important for Japaense teikei that the food have a “face.”

The only time I’ve had such an opportunity was in Africa. The markets are a riot of color, textures and scents. In Mozambique, pyramids of rust orange tomatoes teeter next the bundles of tiny citrus and stacks of suspicious greens. Rice dries on ivory sacks, their World Food Programme emblems fading in the tropical sun. In Cameroon, dried fish hang from twine next to bunches of bananas — golden and sweet unlike anything Chiquita could bring to the US. In Malawi, mangoes and papaya compete for the coral crown next to piles of freshly picked tea leaves greener than any emerald.

This week we’ll break ground on 18 vegetable plots in the community garden. Some 15 will go to refugee families nearby who want a chance to work the land. The other three will be distributed to congregants and interested community members. I’m certain I’ll have a spot in there for some spring eggplant and tomatoes. The heat is quickly approaching, so we must get these seeds in the ground sooner than later. The chickens will fill the coop come October. By December, I am hoping the fruit trees will be blooming, the compost bin full, the eggs freshly delivered to the farmer’s market and the vegetables arriving in bounty.

“In a world of growing population and shrinking fertile land, CSAs, even those with relatively unskilled farmers, have proven their capacity to produce enough food for 20 families or more on each acre. As CSA farms mature, their production becomes more intensive, whether on one farm or on several associated farms. Where industrialized agriculture seems to have passed its peak of productivity, and more chemicals no longer means greater output, biological farms with community support offer long-term prospects of unlimited promise.”

While the community garden is far from a CSA, it is a step toward community agriculture. For those interested in developing a similar project, I’ve really enjoyed reading, “Sharing the Harvest.” From this book, I’ve found a “farmer’s pledge” I am going to ask all the participants to sign before taking over their plots. It’s lengthy, but in sum — we will treat every person and every bit of soil with respect, including feeding the hungry first and never using chemicals on the land.

“The goal ever receds from us. Salvation lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Fingers crossed,


P.S. I had coffee yesterday with my friend Dave, who commented that I NEVER mention him on here and that I’m spending too much time in the garden.

With good reason. The plants don’t complain.

Posted in
Africa, Community, Good to Great, Happy Hippie, Journal
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14 Responses

  1. I’m looking forward to hear more about the garden that grows by the graces of the seeds and the people that sow them. Reading your entries is making me antsy to get into my soil but as Colorado would have it – no planting till Mother’s Day -just one of those rules to live by.

    Does Dave complain? 🙂

  2. We are on the same wavelength again, Kelli…I just posted about joining a CSA! 🙂

  3. I’m really enjoying reading about your gardening activities. I am continually amazed by how much time you pack in to a day and am inspired to do better myself. Since you are talking about the community garden and refugees, I will share what I think is a funny story about a community garden in a town in Colorado. The members of the community garden set up rules about what, how, where to plant and so on. Some refugee families were also members of the community garden but they did not respect the rules and this infuriated the other gardeners. After much angst, I think everyone realized that the refugee families who gardened really needed the food that was produced and maximized their use of space regardless of the rules. Other gardeners gardened for relaxation, creation of beauty, food yes but they didn’t need it the way that poorer families do. I think of it as clash of cultures in the garden. I wonder if you will notice similar patterns in your community garden? You are awesome.


    I can’t believe you have tomatoes already. I mean, I *can* believe it since I know it’s already so warm there, but WOW – tomatoes in April. Fun times.

  5. Need an extra hand or two? Let me know….

  6. This is wonderful! And I don’t think you can overstate the value of people working together and forming connections while they tend plants. All of our communities need more of this sort of interaction.
    (I’ve been trying to get a garden started at my son’s school…but the church they rent space from–not affilitated with the school–vetoed it!! I think I like your church better.:)

  7. Debbie April 3, 2009

    I really enjoy reading about your community garden. When people are hungry, it is not just for food, but for relationships and a sense of belonging to a community. Your community garden feeds both bodies and souls of everyone involved. Keep us updated on your garden news.

  8. This is going to be such a wonderful project. I am sure there will be bumps along the way, but hopefully everyone will come with the same attitude and positive spirit that you have. 🙂 Can’t wait to see the progress as the months go on.

  9. Hey I got mentioned. For complaining. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

  10. My mom is wanting to start a community garden on her property. There is nothing like it in our city and she thinks there should be 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  11. The community garden project is wonderful. Not only does it produce results in the form of food but also acts as a means to engage community members with each other.

  12. Hey Kelli,
    You are doing such a great job with your garden…it’s amazing what the discovery of a new love/hobby can do to a community when you have a mindset like you do to share and serve others with it.

  13. Julie raises an interesting point, and I’ll be interested to hear more about your community garden. What is the makeup of gardeners, mostly hobbyists or a mix?

    I was surprised by the quotation that said 20 families could live off an acre. I’ve seen calculations elsewhere that talk about how much land you’d need to truly feed a single family, and I thought it was far more than an acre. I’ll see if I can find the link.

  14. Let’s see, this message board suggests half an acre per person:

    This Cornell study says one half to two acres:

    And this quote from Casaubon’s Book suggests we may need it: “…almost half of our land, much of it extremely good farmland, is set in small lots of a quarter acre, half an acre, two acres with houses on it. We must farm that land – by 2050, we will only have 0.6 acres per person of arable land in the US. Our current diet requires 3xs that much land. If we ate vastly less meat and more beans and grains, we could reduce that to 1.2 acres per person. But 0.6 acres means that under the present system, people will starve – unless at least half of our 100 million farmers are people in existing housing, turning existing land into food producing spaces. We are going to depend on our home farmers absolutely – that means everyone who possibly can be must become one.” Assuming you believe this: yikes! But, she says, “The average suburban lot could provide half the calories for a family of four plus surplus to sell for neighbors.”

    And on a motivational note, this post from the same site suggests you can grow 200 lbs of food in 44 square feet: http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2007/11/my-friend-pat-can-feed-world.html