Homestead Hamlets: Neighborhood Gardens That Create Community Food Security

Showcasing edible landscaping techniques, the neighborhood gardens started by residents of one Nebraska block helped build community food security.

| April/May 2014

  • Tim Rinne And Kay Walter
    Author Tim Rinne and his wife, Kay Walter, tend crops growing in the Hawley Hamlet hoop house.
    Photo by Lincoln Journal Star
  • Tim Rinne With Children
    Author Tim Rinne and his neighbors of all ages garden together and reap the rewards of an edible landscape.
    Photo by Jeff Larson
  • Repurposed Stone Wall
    Repurposed stones form a short wall along the Hawley Hamlet alley.
    Photo by Doug Boyd
  • Hawley Hamlet Greenhouse
    Tim Rinne and Kay Walter — the author and his wife — added a greenhouse to their home in 2010.
    Photo by Jean Lewis
  • Greenhouse Crops
    With the sun as its only heat source, the greenhouse allows the community to grow cool-weather crops, such as lettuce, in winter.
    Photo by Jean Lewis
  • Tim Rinne Watering Plants
    Members of the Hawley Hamlet in Lincoln, Neb., have upturned their once-grassy lawns to free up space for front-yard gardening and edible landscaping.
    Photo by Lincoln Journal Star
  • Hawley Hamlet Map
    The Hawley Hamlet is one square block. This bird's-eye view shows the location of the Hamlet's edible landscapes.
    Chart by Tim Rinne and Nate Skow

  • Tim Rinne And Kay Walter
  • Tim Rinne With Children
  • Repurposed Stone Wall
  • Hawley Hamlet Greenhouse
  • Greenhouse Crops
  • Tim Rinne Watering Plants
  • Hawley Hamlet Map

For 10 years, I obsessed about the threat of climate change on an intellectual, theoretical level. But it wasn’t until the personal implications of climate change began to dawn on me — how it would disrupt my daily routine and the world I took for granted — that the full horror of our situation finally sank in. And in early 2009, a realization hit me, right in the stomach: I didn’t have the first clue about my food supply. I didn’t know where it came from or how it was grown.

Isn’t that a way of life that’s just asking for trouble?

I decided to make a change. Or, rather, many small changes.

Inklings of a Neighborhood Garden Plan

Although I’d toyed with the idea for years, buying some land and moving to the country wasn’t a viable option. My wife, Kay, and I both worked less than a mile from our home in Lincoln, Neb., and we concluded that the carbon footprint of a longer commute every day would only compound our ecological woes.

About that time, our close friend Linda happened upon a workshop on “Cohousing and Intentional Communities.” Linda was smitten with the idea of a community homestead — a group of like-minded people choosing to live in close proximity to each other in order to share resources, collectively work in gardens, and strive to lessen their load on the planet. After talking the idea over, the plan of repurposing an older neighborhood such as the one Kay and I lived in seemed the most sensible course to our ambitious trio. So, Linda and her husband, Ed, sold their home and moved onto our block, just two doors down.

Suddenly, we’d doubled our numbers. A seed was sprouting.

5/14/2014 7:55:26 PM

Homestead Gardening is very much doable, even in an urban setting. Regardless of the name, whether it is "urban" gardening, "patio" gardening, "Amish" gardening, or "homestead" gardening it is very effective. Sure, it would be wonderful if the local community or even the world community came together to start implementing programs to grow your own fruits and vegetables, but it must start with the individual, the family unit, then move up to the neighborhood and into the larger community. Perhaps you remember "Victory Gardens" back during the war? Nearly everyone had a garden and most were self sufficient. Now we live from desire, to the refrigerator, to the store. That needs to change. Schools should start teaching courses in self sufficiency to help relieve the burden and danger of total reliance on others. Tim Rinne's article is an encouragement to many to move back toward Mother Earth; to use the sun's energy, and to conserve water. Common sense....isn't it just wonderful!

3/12/2014 7:52:16 AM

Should the really hard times come, would the life style that you are trying to lead have much chance? More and more people live now in urban areas--but not for too many of them live in conditions that would allow them to start forming urban hamlets, certainly not to the extent of being able to grow enough to survive on; it would, rather, seem that more people are interested in buying guns and stocking up on ammunition, than in growing their own food. Unless _all_ of humanity becomes truly sustainable, the few ones who decide for sustainability have a little chance of surviving. To hope that the rest of humans will follow their example is unrealistic--there is not enough time for such a slow (and for many an impossible) option to happen. I advocate that all of us who want to live in a sane world start working on designing a model/vision of a truly sustainable Earth that all and anyone would be able to cooperate on. It would be much faster to achieve living in a sustainable world once there is such a model/vision in existence--there would be commonly shared vision to strive for collectively. More on all this at www.ModelEarth.Org . Thank you, Mr. Jan Hearthstone.



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