Growing Gardens, Growing Community

Reader Contribution by Kyle Chandler-Isacksen and Be The Change Project
1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

We’re often inspired by the articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS featuring community projects across the country: neighbors gardening and growing food, tiny house subdivisions, community gardens and fence removals, neighborhood art and culture. We’ve our own little story to share with the rest with the hope of inspiring others in this broader movement towards greater connection with people, planet, and place.

‘Edible ‘Hood’

What we call “Edible ‘Hood” started when my wife, Katy, grew one hundred tomato seedlings for neighbors our first full summer at our Be the Change homestead in Reno, Nevada. We put the seedlings on a small table in front of our former driveway (the driveway’s become hugelkulture beds since then) and made a point to spend lots of time in the front yard so we could connect with neighbors as they stopped by and went home with tomato seedlings. It was a great success and has been the single best way we’ve met neighbors from just a little farther away.

Each year, Edible ‘Hood has grown and each year it has helped to create the neighborly connection that is the foundation of our growing edible neighborhood ecosystem and a truly connected community in our beautifully diverse, low-income neighborhood. Last year, Edible Hood received a $1,000 grant from the Pollination Project. With it we purchased over 20 fruit and nut tree guilds complete with production trees, five+ edible support species plants, compost, and a soil-building seed mix from a local nursery (Loping Coyote). We gave these guilds away to over 20 interested households and taught over 40 neighbors how to plant and care for their perennial guilds.


Community Connections Made by Growing Food

Two days after we handed out the fruit/nut tree guilds, a 12-year-old neighbor (who had successfully avoided eye contact with us for nearly three years on his way to and from school) stopped by to ask if we thought it would be a good idea to start a garden at his house. That sweet opening radically changed our summer plans and has wildly expanded Edible ‘Hood.

With the help of his extended family, a donation from a supporter and fellow permaculturist, other tree guild recipients and neighbors, a local cooperative committed to providing healthy food for homeless people (Grow Reno), local businesses and nonprofits, and our continued volunteer labor, Edible ‘Hood has grown this season to include:

• A large permaculture garden on a busy corner lot which provides fresh produce for more than a dozen neighbors.  This “Giving Garden” is a growing center of neighborhood connection and relationship-building and offers hands-on learning and small stipends for up to five low-income young people each weekend of the 6 month growing season.
• Our neighbor’s neighborhood-scale backyard composting operation through which he creates and gives away great compost.
• Free classes taught by neighbors and local experts including cool season gardening, herbal remedies, and cooking from the garden.
• The new opportunity to create a small learning center across the street from the Giving Garden on a vacant lot our Two Hands Collective non-profit just purchased with the generous support of friends and supporters.


This is a seed that really wants to grow!

Kyle Chandler-Isacksen runs the Be the Change Project with his wife in Reno, Nevada. They are dedicated to creating a just and life-sustaining world while having fun doing it. They were one of MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ Homesteads of the Year in 2013. Shoot him an email.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368