I received a great brochure at my last CLCA meeting called ‘Building Neighborhood Foodsheds’ by Owen Dell. Dell is a well-respected author in the landscape community and he has just finished his latest book called “Sustainability for Dummies.” Here is an except from the Dell:

Most of us live in the suburbs, in single-family homes surrounded by a little bit of land. Most suburbs are located on the finest agricultural land on earth, and yet very little food is actually grown there. Most of our food is produced on distant, impersonal mega-farms and delivered to us using large amounts of fossil fuels. Many people are concerned that this fragile and unsustainable system does a lot of environmental damage and could easily collapse for any number of reasons. We have a wonderful opportunity to bring food production back home, literally, by cooperating with our neighbors to grow our own food on our own land. This is especially easy here in Santa Barbara where our growing season is year-round and the climate is suitable for a wide range of crops. Think of your neighborhood as a potential “noshosphere,” a place to create yummy abundance from the ground up.

What’s a foodshed?
The Wisconsin Foodshed Project says, “The term ‘foodshed,’ borrowed from the concept of a watershed, was coined as early as 1929 to describe the flow of food from the area where it is grown into the place where it is consumed. Recently, the term has been revived as a way of looking at and thinking about local, sustainable food systems.”

A “neighborhood foodshed” is a very local food production and distribution system, set up among immediate neighbors, and is intended to produce healthful abundant food without the use of fossil fuels or the exchange of money, and to foster the development of community as well as nutrition.

A neighborhood foodshed begins by defining geographical boundaries. The area should be small enough that one can easily walk from one end to the other with a load of produce, but large enough to grow most elements of a complete diet for the residents. It should include around 100 to 150 people. A good size is 8 city blocks or the equivalent.

The next step is to assess the current food production capabilities of the foodshed. How many pounds of avocados are produced? How many eggs? How many peaches? And so forth.

Then the neighborhood is “tuned” for a balanced diet, adding in the missing elements. One household can grow annual crops like broccoli, beans or tomatoes. Another can plant some peach trees. Someone can raise fish in their pond. Each person makes a commitment to producing one element in the neighborhood diet. Those who are unable or unwilling to do the physical work can make their land available for others to grow on. Food is grown using permaculture and organic methods.

There could be workdays at which neighbors would help one another with gardening tasks. Experienced permaculturists and other food-growing experts from the neighborhood or outside would be available to offer technical advice. Eventually there would be a city-wide resource for advice and training. And members of a working foodshed could help other neighborhoods to set up their own systems.

Each weekend the food is freely shared at a neighborhood farmer’s market, held in someone’s driveway or in a public location. No money changes hands. This can also be a time for potluck, socializing, etc.

Crops that can only be grown in particular microclimates could be traded out to other foodsheds in the city. Surplus foods could be donated to organizations that feed the hungry and homeless, or sold to local restaurants.

Neighborhood foodsheds are fun, healthful and environmentally beneficial. Oh, and food-bearing plants can make a beautiful landscape!

To contact Owen Dell please email him at odell@silcom.com