Starting a Garden When You Can’t (or Don’t Want to) Do the Work: Yard Sharing Organizations

starting a garden in an urban backyard

Spring gardening time is just about upon us (depending on where you live, of course) – I know I’m already preparing my raised bed, and considering other options for growing more vegetables in my tiny little yard. While the work of gardening isn’t as taxing as many other activities (and can be downright meditative… or at least relaxing), there are people who just can’t do it. They may live with a disability that makes starting a garden difficult, or may have reached an age at which the physical activity required is beyond their abilities. And, of course, there are folks who just don’t want to do it.

All of these folks may want access to fresh, hyperlocal vegetables and fruits, though… and there’s no reason they can have that! A number of organizations have sprung up around the concept of yard/garden sharing: providing space to a wannabe gardener in exchange for a portion of the harvest. Yes, it sounds like the concept of sharecropping; no, it’s not exploitative like that! Yard sharing is about neighbors getting together to create sustainable, tasty win-win situations.

Don’t have space to garden, but really want to? Got space, but not the ability or inclination? These five organizations can put you in touch with people in your community who want to provide the missing piece of your particular gardening equation.

Starting a Garden with Someone Else’s Labor or Land: 5 Yard Sharing Organizations

Hyperlocavore: If this name sounds familiar, it should – we’ve been fans of Liz McClellan’s site for years. A true community. Hyperlocavore doesn’t just provide a matching service, but also gives members the opportunity to share their ideas and voice their opinions through discussion boards and blogs. Hyperlocavore has members all over the US, in Canada, and in Central America.

SharedEarth.com: While Hyperlocavore is totally bootstrapped, Austin, Texas-based SharedEarth.com is a non-profit effort founded by venture capitalist Adam Dell (and even received praise from Malcolm Gladwell). It’s primarily a matching service for yard sharing. International in scope (though most listings are US-based).

Sharing Backyards: A project of the British Columbia-based Lifecycles Project, Sharing Backyards combines the global and local. If you’d like to get garden sharing going in your community, Sharing Backyards can provide online tools to allow local residents to share their needs for space or labor. The organization also seeks out sponsors for projects to cover their costs. While most programs are located in Canada, there are quite a few in the US, and a handful in New Zealand. Take a look at this brief feature from the Canadian Food Network:

Farm My Yard: Based in Portland, OR (of course), Farm My Yard is strictly a local effort. While they have a web presence (featuring a Sharing Backyards map), the matching process is also based on yard signs announcing “Farm My Yard.” They’ve also. gotten some attention from the press:

LETS GO Chicago: Yep, the Midwest is in on this concept, too, in a very local way. The Yard Sharing Network of LETS GO Chicago (or “Leading the Energy Transition, Sprouting Green Opportunities”) is focused on the Rogers Park neighborhood.

No doubt, I’ve missed some other organizations. If you know of groups (for- or non-profit) facilitating and promoting yard sharing, let us know about them.

Image credit: edibleoffice via photopin cc

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