Working Together: Observations on Co-Operative Gardening

  • October 22, 2015
  • From our Students
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By Joshua Lamothe

About a year ago my wife and I purchased a home of my own and one of the considerations we had when looking for the right fit for us was a small space to have an outdoor garden. After some clearing and cleaning of dirt, brush and energy, I set the intention to begin a small organic garden and grow some of my own herbs and maybe, eventually some veggies. I opened the door to the possibility of staring the process but then I met Farmer Tone, and the door was swung fully open.

Opening my heart and home to someone I barely knew is something I protected against, not that I am a closed person but I believe in the value of personal space, of maintaining one’s own energies and of a certain level of privacy – after all, the home is meant to be a sanctuary from the stresses of the outside world. However, this way of being doesn’t often allowed for the type of community building that is required for creating and maintaining a productive garden. It really shouldn’t be done alone, after all, what is the point of abundance if you can’t share it with others?

Although the last several months have been a challenge to my ego, who likes to stay hidden and protected, partnering with Farmer Tone has been very rewarding on many levels and our commitment to each other (and the garden)’s success is taking its place at the forefront of the relationship.

For those who may be considering the idea of some level of co-operative living, here are my suggestions to assist you…

Open communication – It is best to communicate your feelings openly and honesty and allow for others to do the same. Avoid keeping things bottled up, even if you feel it will be hurtful. Grown ups can handle things, as long as you chose your words carefully and speak from the heart.

Boundaries and Structure – It is important that each member of the community have his or her own space for their own life. Make a plan together to discuss schedules for shared activities and set time away to pursue individual goals and interests. Personal and family time is so important to a healthy life.

Honor commitments – Once you set the structure, do it as designed. Stick to the schedule and avoid last minute surprises as best as possible. Life happens and last minute changes occur, but if you are intentional and able to go with the flow, you will be surprised how easy and natural it is to honor the commitments. As always, communicate openly.

Take Baby Steps – Plan things in small, deliberate steps. Work towards a final result with a solid action plan, don’t feel the need to take everything on all at once. You will feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you complete tasks and witness your plan unfold.

Notice Resistance – Stepping out of the comfort zone of privacy WILL be uncomfortable and you may want to put on the breaks or even run from the unfamiliar feelings of being vulnerable. This is another opportunity to enhance the partnerships with open communication. Dialog about how you feel and express your desire to break the habit of being closed off.

I am myself a work in progress with these tools but what I do know is that in these times we need to rely on each other more than ever, especially when it comes to our food and its source. We need backyard and urban gardeners to provide us local alternatives to the grocery store, but more importantly we need them to be an example of what it looks like to be successful working together. Experiment, try, fail, play. Have Fun!

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