Community Container Gardening

Reader Contribution by Amy Koliner
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In a collaborative environment – a co-working space – one would think there would be ample opportunities to share. After all, this space is built with community in mind. The tables are configured to facilitate conversation and there is a “pit” with oversized bean bags yearning for people to lounge in them and contemplate big ideas while sipping coffee.

Truth be told, many of us working in this “collaborative, co-working” environment go days, even weeks, without talking to each other. Some people are busy. Some people are shy. Some of these people I share this space with every day need to concentrate….-hard. They are entrepreneurs building platforms for social networking, building new robust software for large and small companies, or creating mobile apps. Big stuff. Technical stuff.

So, when I started walking around talking about dirt, compost, earth worm castings and container gardening I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. I mean, these folks are data enthusiasts, content managers and systems engineers. They chat via Yammer about Moodle, WordPress and Ajax. They ideate, iterate and use so many acronyms it makes my head spin. They are “techy.” They are smart.

But what I believed in my mind and my heart – and what I risked when I carried in 10 lb. bags of soil and compost into a very clean office environment – is that people can be connected via this dirt. With some skill (and frankly, lots of luck) this dirt will produce food – the great connector of people. As Wendell Berry wrote in The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth and death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community…”

So, I got approval from the owners of the space and sheepishly started posting on Twitter that I was going to build this community container garden. I typically need to go out on a limb and start talking about doing things before I actually get them done. It is often more to talk myself into it than anything.

What I discovered is that the people working around me whom I thought were just interested in sitting hunched over their computers programming were suddenly bringing in ‘Aji Amarillo’ seeds they had saved. (These are, I learned, hot yellow chile peppers used in Peruvian dishes.) They started sharing ideas about what to grow. “Basil is pretty easy and smells so great,” said one. “Tomatoes would be hard; we have good sun but they need heat,” said another. I threw a few herbs in some pots and planted some seeds. My hope is the community will make this project grow – and grow.

And so for now – we are talking.

As an advertising manager for Ogden Publications, Amy Koliner has the opportunity to talk with fascinating people and learn new things about sustainable lifestyles every day. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and tries to incorporate the earth-friendly tips she learns into their daily lives.