My town of Boulder, Colorado, is a strange republic. We’re a little bit smug and far too politically correct, but we get some things right (like encouraging biking and banning smoking). In Martin Acres, a neighborhood of 1950s ranch houses where I used to live, the City of Boulder gave the green light to one of the most inspiring uses of wasted lawn space that I’ve ever encountered. And in the wake of news that a Michigan woman faces jail time for planting vegetables in her front yard, I want everyone to know about Boulder’s Community Roots.
In a brilliant riff on community-supported agriculture (CSA), Kipp Nash has cobbled together 13 tiny front yard “farms,” planted with zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli, onions, lettuce and arugula, scattered throughout this traditional subdivision, where the yards are less than an acre. The “microfarms” feed about 50 families all summer long.
“This program is a beacon of hope that anyone in our neighborhood can access,” says Nash, who founded the program in 2006. “People everywhere are aching to connect to their food sources and to each other, but so often next-door neighbors don’t know each others’ names. Community Roots brings it all together.”
Nash recruits homeowners to provide water for irrigation and plots ranging from 600 to 3,500 square feet, which Community Roots members plant, water, weed and harvest. Members plant two or three crops of vegetables that don’t require much space, such as leafy greens, radishes, beets, carrots and potatoes. Every contributor receives a share from the community gardens, and the group sells extra produce at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market.
A handful of neighbors have complained about the front-yard farming—especially in winter when the fallow gardens turn muddy—but most are delighted. “We wanted to be part of Kipp’s soulful, meaningful cause,” says Nash’s next-door neighbor Camille Hook, who donated her yard for a vegetable plot.
Hook loves the vital connection she now has with her food and her neighbors, and her family is healthier as a result of the garden. Her son Jeremy was “vegetable-challenged” until he planted his own patch of edible flowers and invited friends to harvest lettuce and edible flower salads. “Now the kids clamor to eat chard, kale and grilled zucchini for dinner,” Hook says. “That’s working for me!”
Community Roots founder Kipp Nash and member Alex Melinkoff harvest vegetables. Photo by Michael Shopenn
Nash is proud of how Community Roots connects people. “It’s awesome watching neighbors meet each other as they gather at the CSA pickup stand for their share of the week’s crops,” he says. “That alone makes all the work worthwhile.” Photo by Michael Shopenn
Good food thrives in a front yard plot. Photo by Michael Shopenn
Members sell extra produce at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market. Photo by Michael Shopenn