Hyperlocavore: Making the Yard-share Connection

The founder of the yard-sharing website Hyperlocavore explains how she uses social networking to connect city gardeners and landowners.

Yard sharing (also referred to as land sharing or garden sharing) is an ideal solution for those who want to grow their own food but lack space, time, skills or physical ability to do so.

Through yard-share agreements, city dwellers who may have been discouraged by not having a yard of their own or shortage of community garden space in their area can connect with neighbors to access unused yard and garden space. Property owners currently unable to cultivate their garden space can reap a shared harvest by partnering with local gardeners interested in working the land.

Benefits of Yard Sharing

In addition to the edible benefits of yard sharing, these local partnerships positively impact urban farmers and their communities in the long-term.

“Building a community and a set of relationships in a zip code that allows you to work directly with others in the community who share your vision in the long-run may mean a more stable land base for your urban-farming enterprise,” explains Liz McLellan, founder of yard-sharing networking website Hyperlocavore. “You will be much more likely to have a positive outcome through healthy relationships with your neighbors than you will battling developers and City Hall,” says McLellan. “It’s a human-scaled way to interact and build resilience.”

McLellan adds that yard sharing benefits individuals as well.

“Yard sharing brings you in touch with a supportive group of people that share your values and goals and have a direct relationship with your personal success as a farmer,” she says.

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Start a Yard Share

Yard sharing is based on local social networking, with arrangements made individually among gardeners and property owners. While some cities have their own online yard-sharing networks, Hyperlocavore aims to help people nationwide connect locally. By joining Hyperlocavore’s free online social network, aspiring gardeners can create profiles to connect with others in their area to form a yard-sharing group.

“We have enthusiastic pockets of people all over the country,” says McLellan.

She recommends starting with a search in your geographic area to see if anyone has started a network there. Then, fill out a profile to let other yard sharers know what you need: a place to dig, help in your garden, a produce-exchange group, seed sharing, et cetera. If no one in your area is currently yard sharing, set up an area group (such as “Seeking Yard Sharing in Oklahoma City, Okla.”) and help get the word out via email, Facebook and Twitter or posting flyers, in your area.

“We depend on our members to get the word out in their hometown and rely heavily on word of mouth,” McLellan says.

Once word gets out in your community, it’s up to you to find people that are the right fit.

“At this point it’s a bit more like dating,” she says. “You need to sort out for yourself who you will get along with, who shares your goals and values. Go out for coffee with folks — get to know them before committing. When you find the people you want to grow with, you can then set up a private group — or pod, as we call it — for all the organizing work your yard-sharing group needs to get done.”

The Yard Connection

In addition to making connections, the wider yard-sharing community on Hyperlocavore is a supportive and social environment.

“We share seeds, videos, pictures, stories, laughs and gardening know-how,” says McLellan. “We also provide a space for urban farmers to share information and compare notes, strategies and complaints. Every entrepreneur needs this sort of support from his or her peers, but especially those doing bleeding-edge sustainability like urban and suburban farmers.”

To help get the word out locally, McLellan urges urban farmers to set up a page on Hyperlocavore, then distribute that link to their communities via email or posters and flyers in their communities.

“We provide a hosted organizing hub online, but the activist part is up to the farmer,” she explains. “By providing a deep well of content we can help you make the case for establishing hyperlocal, community-supported agriculture in your neighborhood.

Hyperlocavore aims to help build deep community resilience at the neighborhood level, as well as connect urban farmers with local chefs.

“Chefs who favor locally grown food are always looking for reliable growers who can deliver regular fresh organic produce,” McLellan

Continued Growth

McLellan sees both environmental and economic factors increasing the importance of local food networks.

“There are too many deep intersecting crises — the financial meltdown, peak oil, peak water, peak soil and catastrophic climate disruption. … We need to create buffer zones of resilience and strengthen — not undermine — our ties to our communities.”

As people become more aware of the yard-share concept, interest in yard sharing continues to grow.

“Yard sharing and the community-level sharing is really just entering people’s consciousness,” says McLellan.

The trend gained significant attention when McLellan launched Hyperlocavore in January 2009, and she says the site is getting new members every day. “It’s clear to me it’s a great idea at the exact right time. It’s still very new, though. We need everyone’s help to get the idea out there!”

About the Author: Elizabeth Moyer is an editor in Lexington, Ky. She cultivates her green thumb by growing tomatoes and herbs on her patio.

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