Garden Sharing: Farming Meets Social Networks Garden Sharing: Farming Meets Social Networks

Garden Sharing: Farming Meets Social Networks

by Peter Smith

October 10, 2010

What happens when 90 million users stop growing fake vegetables on Farmville—and started getting real food from social networks.
This whole idea of sharing land isn’t exactly new, and the idea of community—as cliché as it might sound—has been part of the American landscape from early utopian communities to the latest planned cul-de-sac suburb. As Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers write in their new book, What’s Mine is Yours, the increased interest in harnessing the idling capacity of backyards addresses our concern about the environment, the financial recession, the resurgence of community through social networking, and using technology for better efficiency. “When you talk to people, it’s about far more than the food,” Botsman says. “My dad started doing it and he sends me photos all the time. And for the first time in thirteen years, he’s knows his neighbors’ names.”

Garden-sharing remains relatively new but there are signs that it’s becoming more mainstream. The City of Santa Monica recently set up a municipal garden-sharing site in an attempt to alleviate its 200-person long wait list for community gardens. “I don’t know why every city doesn’t implement something like this,” Botsman told me. “It’s a no brainer. It’s low-cost and you can lay it on to any existing social network.”

While urban gardens may not feed the world, gardening has immediate results. It’s highly participatory and, compared to other social reforms like improved housing or schools, it’s relatively inexpensive. If the idea took hold among 10 percent of the land households in New York City, says Nevin Cohen, a professor at the New School Eugene Lang College, the effort might yield close to 113 million pounds of vegetables annually, enough to feed 666,211 people (about 8 percent of the city’s population). In cities with more spare land, like Detroit or New Haven, Connecticut, the harvest could easily double or triple. And just as Wikipedia has shown that large accumulations of small things can add up to an encyclopedic knowledge, garden sharing sites could show how the wisdom of crowds has the potential to share the fruits of farmland—and not just the virtual kind.

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Garden Sharing: Farming Meets Social Networks