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Home > Resource Conservation > Soil > Benefits Of Growing Food, Fiber and Medicine

Resource Conservation: Soil: Benefits Of Growing Food, Fiber And Medicine.

soil pics.
For very little effort, you can increase your standard of living by growing your own food, fiber and medicine. You don't need to spend more money and time on your landscape if you consider doing things a little differently.

 

Overview:

Chances are, you are already putting a lot of effort, money and water into your landscape. Is your landscape paying you back or is it one big hassle to keep up with? If you are tired of the hassle we suggest you simplify and receive the benefits of landscaping in a non-conventional way.
     What do we mean by non-conventional? A conventional landscape is mostly decorative with grass and shrubs that produce no food. If any food, fiber or medicine is grown, it relies on the use of inorganic chemicals and tilling. A non-conventional landscape uses no chemicals or tilling, less water and labor while providing useful benefits.
     The Overall Cost Comparison section below shows a "cost" comparison of maintaining a conventional vs. non-conventional landscape. "Costs" include your time, money and gas spent.
     The sections following that give more detail as to how we calculated the numbers in the Overall Cost Comparison section.
Factors included in our analysis are in the following bulleted table.

Conventional Landscape:
  • Cost of mowing, trimming and weeding.
  • Cost of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
  • Cost of irrigating.
  • Cost of obtaining food.
Non-Conventional Landscape:
  • The Non-Conventional Landscape.
  • Lower Food Costs.
  • Better nutrition and food security.
  • Time with your family, friends and community.

Overall Cost Comparison: Conventional vs. Non-Conventional Landscape:

We thought the best way to introduce you to the benefits is with an example.
Example: We assume a typical home owner (2 person house) has 2,000 sq. ft. of landscape to manage. In the "conventional" landscape he/she has 85% (1,700 sq. ft.) lawn, 10% (200 sq. ft.) tree and shrub and 5% (100 sq. ft.) garden. For the "non-conventional" home owner, we double the area for the garden and the trees and shrubs. That is 1,400 sq. ft. of lawn, 400 sq. ft. of trees and shrubs and 200 sq. ft. of garden. All of these calculations assume a 25 week season of growing/watering/mowing per year.

Conventional
Lawn: 1,700 sq ft.  
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Total
38.7
$202.59
7.4

Tree and Shrub: 200 sq. ft.
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Total
2.58
$34.20
0

Garden: 100 sq. ft.
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Total
62.08
$16.32
3.1

Food Gathering at store:
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Trips to store
59.17
$3,813
5.92

Grand total cost for food and landscape:
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Grand Total
162.5
$4066
16.42
Non-Conventional
Lawn: 1,400 sq ft.  
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Total
14.35
$111.22
3.54

Tree and Shrub: 400 sq. ft.
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Total
24.68
$84.4
0

Garden: 200 sq. ft.
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Total
56.8
$5.54
2

Food Gathering at store:
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Trips to store
52.5
$3,600
5.25

Grand total cost for food and landscape:
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Grand Total
148.3
$3,801
10.79

A summary of differences between maintaining Conventional and Non-Conventional landscaping practices and materials is here:
Practice
Conventional Non-Conventional
Rototilling
Yes, every year
Never
Inorganic Chemicals
Yes, several times a year
Never
Water Use
A lot
A little
Organic Chemicals
None
First year or two
Produce Food
Very Little
A lot
Thatching, Aerating
Every few years
Never


Below are the cost tables broken down by sq. ft. estimates and showing more detail. For the "Food Gathering at Store" it is assumed that the home owner takes 60 trips to the store a year if they do not grow food. It is further assumed that each trip is 1 hour and 0.1 gallons of gas.

Conventional
Lawn: per sq. ft. per yr
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Fixed cost*
1
$45
0
edge, Aero, thatch
0.01
$0.01
0.001
Mow
0.0063
$0.00
0.001
Trim
0.0021
$0.00
0
Fertilize
0.0007
$0.016
0
Insect, Herb
0.0005
$0.009
0
Hardware Store1
1.5
$0.00
4
Irrigate, sprinkler
0.0017
$0.016
0
Irrigate, Water2
0.0
$0.0417
0
Total Fixed
2.5
$45.00
4
Total Maintenance
0.0213
$0.0927
0.002

Tree and Shrub: per sq. ft. per yr
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Trim
0.01
$0.00
0
Fertilize
0.0007
$0.016
0
Insect, Herb
0.0005
$0.009
0
Irrigate, sprinkler
0.0017
$0.016
0
Irrigate, Water2
0.0
$0.13
0
Harvest
0.0
$0.00
0
Total
0.0129
$0.171
0

Garden: per sq. ft. per yr
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Roto-Till
0.05
$0
0.01
Supplements
0.01
$0.01
0.001
Seed
0.0002
$0.10
0
Plant, Weed
0.30
$0.00
0
Fertilize
0.0021
$0.008
0
Insect, Herb
0.001
$0.0025
0
Hardware Store1
0.75
$0.00
2
Irrigate, sprinkler
0.15
$0.001
0
Irrigate, Water2
0.0
$0.0417
0
Harvest
0.1
$0.00
0
Total Fixed
0.75
$0.00
2
Total Maintenance
0.6133
$0.1632
0.011

Food Gathering: per sq. ft. of food.
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Regular trips to store
60.0
$3,840
6
Less per sq ft. food
0.0083
$0.27
0.0008
Non-Conventional
Lawn: per sq. ft. per yr
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Fixed cost*
1
$45
0
edge, Aero, thatch
0.001
$0.001
0.0001
Mow
0.0042
$0.00
0.001
Trim
0.0021
$0.00
0
Fertilize
0.0000
$0.00
0
Insect, Herb
0.0
$0.00
0
Hardware Store1
0.75
$0.00
2
Irrigate, sprinkler
0.0017
$0.016
0
Irrigate, Water2
0.0
$0.0313
0
Total Fixed
1.75
$45.00
2
Total Maintenance
0.009
$0.0473
0.0011

Tree and Shrub: per sq. ft. per yr
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Trim
0.01
$0.00
0
Fertilize
0
$0.00
0
Insect, Herb
0
$0.00
0
Irrigate, sprinkler
0.0017
$0.016
0
Irrigate, Water2
0.0
$0.195
0
Harvest
0.05
$0.00
0
Total
0.0617
$0.211
0

Garden: per sq. ft. per yr
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Roto-Till
0
$0
0
Supplements
0
$0.00
0
Seed
0.0002
$0.01
0
Plant, Weed
0.10
$0.00
0
Fertilize
0
$0.00
0
Insect, Herb
0
$0.00
0
Hardware Store1
0.75
$0.00
2
Irrigate, sprinkler
0.06
$0.001
0
Irrigate, Water2
0.0
$0.0167
0
Harvest
0.12
$0.00
0
Total Fixed
0.75
$0.00
2
Total Maintenance
0.2802
$0.0277
0

Food Gathering: per sq. ft. of food.
Process
Time(hr.)
Money
Gas(gal.)
Regular trips to store
60.0
$3,840
6
Less per sq ft. food
0.0125
$0.40
0.0013

* Fixed cost of maintaining a gas powered push lawn mower per year.
1 A trip to the hardware store is assumed to be 45 minutes and use 2 gallons of gas per round trip.
2 Dollar value estimate for water used. The assumption is $2.00 per ccf.
Also note: We could have given a dollar amount for our estimate of gasoline costs, however, we believe this should be a separate resource to track.

Open the discussions below to find more detail about our assumptions that were made to make the above calculations. Remember there are non-monetary benefits which we encourage your to read about. These sections are "Better Nutrition and Food Security" and "Time with Family".

Cost Of Mowing, Trimming And Weeding The Landscape:

The Cost of a Conventional Lawn (Mowing):
Fixed cost per year: Assuming you own a gas powered push lawn mower, your maintenance costs will be about $45 a year and an hour of labor.
     Weekly cost of mowing: If you are bagging your grass we estimate about 1.5 minutes per 100 sq. ft. and 1.0 minute if you are not bagging (mulching). We also assume approx. 0.004 gallons of gas will be burnt per 100 sq. ft. Trimming the edge might be another 0.5 minutes per 100 sq. ft of lawn. If you mow 25 times in a year that is 0.625 hours per 100 sq. ft. bagging, and 0.417 hours if mulching. Assuming trimming every week, that is 0.208 hours.
      Edging, aerating, thatching and other procedures may cost another $5 to $10 a year and 1 hour (or more) of your labor for every 100 sq. ft. of lawn.
     Conventional trimming of trees and shrubs may be another hour per 100 square feet per year. For conventional trees and shrubs, clean up of the debris usually means it is thrown in the garbage. In a non-conventional landscape, this debris is chopped and used as mulch and is therefore considered a resource.
Conventional Garden:
Many people will have a small garden on their landscape which they will roto-till every year. Many add top soil, mulch, compost and other supplements. We make our estimates per 20 sq. ft.
     Roto-tilling is about 1 hour per 20 square feet and 0.25 gallons of fuel. A 2 inch layer of top soil would be about $5 to $7. Other supplements and seeds would be another $10 to $12.
     Planting, weeding and harvesting for a conventional garden we estimate  at 6 hours per 20 sq. ft per year.
     Therefore, to do a simple 20 square foot garden, it may cost more than $60 and  7 hours of labor.
     Many of these expenses in time (roto-tilling) and money (supplements) are not needed to maintain a healthy garden. See our page on the 5 things all plants need to be healthy.

Cost Of Fertilizers, Pesticides And Herbicides:

Conventional Lawn:
If you are maintaining a conventional lawn, inorganic chemicals are applied several times to the lawn a year. We assume you go to the hardware store twice a season to pick up these chemicals. Our estimate is 1.5 hours and 4 gallons of gas for those 2 trips.
      Our calculation for the cost to apply these chemicals per 100 square feet is:
Fertilizer: $0.40 per application per 100 sq ft. and 1 minute.
Herbicide: $0.25 per application per 100 sq. ft. and 0.5 minute.
Insecticide: $0.07 per application per 100 sq. ft. and 1 minute.

     Assuming we apply fertilizer 4 times, herbicide 3 times and insecticide 2 times in a season your total expense for 100 sq. ft. of lawn would be :
  • $2.49
  • 0.125 hours
Conventional Tree and Shrub:
We assume the same time and cost for fertilizer, insecticide and herbicide for trees and shrubs.

Conventional Garden:
While people do conventional gardening differently we will assume the application of inorganic fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide to be about the same as for a lawn but half the surface area.

That is:
Fertilizer: $0.20 per application per 100 sq ft. and 3 minute.
Herbicide: $0.125 per application per 100 sq. ft. and 2 minute.
Insecticide: $0.03 per application per 100 sq. ft. and 3 minute.
We further assume the same number of applications as we assumed for conventional lawn.

Cost Of Irrigation:

Water is essential for plants to be healthy. However you water your landscape, it takes effort to make sure everything gets the water it needs.
     The best water to use for your plants is rain water, but plants will use all kinds of water.

Conventional Lawn:
The typical lawn requires 1/2 inch of water twice a week. Assuming you are watering for 25 weeks, the general water requirement is: 1,600 gallons of water for 100 square feet of lawn.
     Conventionally, you will use house water or irrigation water to irrigate your lawn. Irrigation water usually is one set fee all season, house water charges by the 100 cubic feet (ccf) used. For 100 sq. ft. of lawn that is 2.08 ccf of water. If you are charged $2.00 per ccf, that is $4.16 for the season.
     Sprinklers: For a non-automatic system, a lot of time is spent dragging the hoses around. We estimate that you will need 1 minute a week per 100 sq. ft. of lawn to drag hoses around your yard.  If you use an automatic sprinkler system, we assume an hour to get the system initially set up in the spring and an hour to shut it down in the fall. We further assume 1 minute a week per 100 sq. ft. to check on your system, you will need to replace 0.1 sprinklers per 100 sq. ft. of lawn per year (each sprinkler would need about 30 minutes to replace and cost $16.00).

Conventional Trees and Shrubs:
The water requirement for trees and shrubs varies by quite a bit. However, a medium size fruit tree may need 30,000 gallons of water a year, but non food bearing trees would be closer to 10,000 gallons of water a year. Therefore we will assume about 10,000 gallons per 100 sq. ft. of tree and shrub.  That is 13.4 ccf of water for $26 per year per 100 sq. ft. for non-fruit bearing trees. For fruit bearing trees that is 40.2 ccf for $78 per year per 100 sq. ft. We further assume that 1/2 the water will be supplied by rain for conventional and 3/4 of the water will be supplied by rain for non-conventional.
Conventional Garden:
Depending on what you grow, there will be different watering requirements. Also, if chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and rototilling are used, water requirements will also go up. Here we assume the conventional garden will require 1 inch of water each week. For a garden maintained 25 weeks each year that is 0.42 ccf of water per 20 sq. ft. ($1.00) of garden and 3 hours of dragging hoses around or filling watering buckets.

Water Quality:
Rainwater: The best water for all of your landscape is rain water. No chemicals are put into this water.
Irrigation Water: If the water comes from a long distance, some evaporation will occur concentrating the solids in the water (making it saltier).
House Water: This is water pumped into your house from the city you live in. In many areas chlorine and fluoride have been added to this water to kill bacteria.
Soft Water: If a water softener is used, it may remove minerals useful to your plants.
Grey Water: This is the waste water from taking a shower or washing hands. Since there is a possibility of soap and other impurities in the water it is best to filter the water before it comes to your food producing plants. Non-food producing plants can be used as filter plant before the water reaches food producing plants.

Cost Of Obtaining Food:

We all have to eat. This section encourages you to evaluate how much time and money you spend obtaining that food.

Assumptions: We assume a household will take 60 trips a year to the grocery store. We further assume it is a 3 mile round trip to the store and that you spend 1 hour each visit to the store. This assumes that no food is grown on the landscape.
Cost:
Based on the assumptions, the cost to obtain food is roughly 6 gallons of gas and 60 hours each year.

     What you spend on your food is your business and will depend on many things. In the grocery store, each dollar you spend will get you 100 to 1,500 calories. However, we assume you spend $1 for 375 calories on average at the grocery store. So, our estimate is $32 per person per trip

The Non-Conventional Landscape:

When we say "non-conventional" we mean a landscape that has been designed to capture rain water and grow food, fiber and medicine. Properties can thrive without tilling the soil and without inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

     Water Capture: For growing things, rain water is better than any other type of water that can be put on a food bearing landscape. Therefore, it may be best to find places in your landscape to capture this free source of life giving material. We recommend one starts with water absorbing earthworks before buying any expensive cisterns and the plumbing that goes along with that. These earthworks can be swales (berm & basin) on contour or a hugelkultur bed or a rain garden. Earthworks require an initial amount of labor but does not need to be repeated every year. We estimate  1.5 hour per 20 sq. feet of labor to install (one time) the water absorbing earthworks. We further assume about 0.1 hours of labor each year to maintain the earthworks. Once installed your watering needs can be greatly reduced. With a healthy soil food web for your plants, we estimate your water needs will be reduced by more than 50% (over conventional garden). Then with water capturing earthworks (and cisterns) you can reduce your water requirement by another 10% to 50% depending on how much rain you get. Therefore, we assume the watering requirement drops from 1" a week for the conventional garden to 0.4" a week or less. If you are growing for 25 weeks that is 0.17 ccf ($ 0.40) to 0 ccf per 20 sq. ft. of water you have to supply to your garden. This could also mean you eliminate 3 hours of labor just dragging hoses or filling watering buckets.

     Tilling? as we show in "5 things", roto-tilling destroys a healthy soil food web. So, 0 time and gas spent tilling.

     Inorganic Chemicals (fertilizer, pesticide, etc)? As long as there is a healthy soil food web, water and sun your plants will grow. As a matter of fact, they will thrive. There is no need to buy any of these things. Therefore, $0 dollars spent, no time spent applying, no trips (gas and time) to the hardware store and no application equipment.

     Planting, Weeding and harvesting: If there is a layer of mulch, wood chips or just other shading plants the need to weed is greatly reduced. And if the soil is not compacted, the weeds will pull up easily (or you can cut them). Therefore, we estimate 2 hours per 20 sq. ft. per year. However, we believe with a healthy soil food web, the growing season may be able to be extended past 25 weeks, therefore increasing the labor by a small amount.
Aerating, Thatching and Edging: These are procedures many people do to lawns. Aerating and thatching are not necessary for those lawns that have a healthy soil food web. Edging may still need to be done on the non-conventional lawn.

     Organic Chemicals (fertilizer, pesticide, etc)? Organic fertilizers are worm castings, mulch, blood bone, compost, rock dust, compost tea and so on. Pesticides are things like Neem oil, Diatomaceous Earth and other natural things that kills insects. If the soil does not have good biology (healthy soil food web) you may want to buy (or make) some of these things and put them on your soil. However, once you have a healthy soil food web, there would generally be no need to apply these things. "Chop and drop" and mulching would be encouraged. So in the first year or two, that is about $0.10 per 20 sq. ft.

     Pathways: If some lawn is converted to a food bearing landscape, pathways will be needed so that plants can be maintained. We estimate, the pathways will be about 10 sq. ft. for each 20 sq. ft. of growing surface. Therefore, 1/3 of all surface converted to food bearing landscape, has no water or soil requirements. Again, we assume pathways are a one time set up of about 0.5 hours per 20 sq. ft of pathway. This "one time set up" would generally be placing wood chips or burlap bags on the path. Then 0.5 hours per 20 sq, ft. per year to maintain (weeding) those pathways. Therefore, we estimate 6 sq. ft of pathways for every 14 sq. ft. of garden plants (6+14 = 20). 

     Yield: Of course, there is no comparison of yield of food, fiber and medicine when comparing it to a non-food bearing lawn. However, when comparing food production of a conventional (inorganic) garden to the non-conventional (healthy food web) there can be big differences. Most of the evidence we see is that the non-conventional will bear 25% to 100% more mass of food than a conventional garden due to function stacking. Growing your own food conventionally or non-conventionally will provide more nutrition than buying the produce in a store. The main difference is that (inorganic) chemicals are less efficient than biology (soil food web) at providing nutrients to the plant. We estimate that the non-conventional garden would yield 2 to 3 times more nutrition per pound than the conventional garden. We also assume that conventional gardens would have 5 times better nutrition than most produce from the grocery store. Therefore, we contend that you will have 10 to 15 times better nutrition density per pound than buying produce from a grocery store.

Lower Food Costs:

It is difficult to calculate the total cost of food grown on your landscape and compare it to the cost coming from the grocery store. Many people choose to grow things that will be costly at the grocery store.
     Therefore, we will take a calories/sq. ft. of growing space approach to help estimate food costs. The best estimates we have found for cal/sq. ft. are between 35 (kale) to 300 (potatoes). For the conventional garden we use 100 cal/sq. ft.. For the non-conventional garden (including tree and shrub) we use 150 cal/sq ft. as our estimates.
The 60 trips per year to the store consume 60 hours and 6 gallons of gas. If we assume the average person requires 2,000 calories each day, each trip to the grocery store is to acquire 12,000 calories of food per person. That means for each sq. ft. of food bearing landscape that is 0.0083 less hours shopping and 0.0125 less hours for conventional and non-conventional respectively. That translates into 0.00083 and 0.00125 less gallons of gas per sq. ft. for conventional and non-conventional.
     This does not sound like much but it adds up quickly.

Better Nutrition and Food Security:

Better Nutrition:
When we say nutrition we do not mean calories. We actually mean materials in food stuffs that provide some benefit to our bodies. This is a combination of minerals, enzymes, bacteria, fats, sugars, calories and so on.
     As we mention in the "Yield" part of "The Non-conventional Landscape" section, produce from a grocery store tends to have less nutritive value than what can be grown at a persons home. This has led to a lot of speculation that the lack of nutrition in our food has caused the obesity problems we are seeing in the United States. Let's look at some ways the nutrition is lost in the food we eat.
     Time Away: When a fruit or vegetable gets separated from the main plant, it starts to lose nutrients. The longer the separation the more nutrients leave and decay sets in. A lot of the produce in the grocery store was picked days or months before you see it.
     Pick Early: a lot of the produce in the store is also picked before it has fully matured. Usually produce is at the peak of nutrition when it is fully ripe. Most produce is picked early so that by the time it gets to the grocery store it will look like it has matured (like strawberries). Just because something looks ripe in the store, does not mean it is at the peak of nutrition.
     Preservation: Industrial agriculture knows that their products will need to be preserved so that they can make it to the store shelves looking like they were picked today. These methods of preservation can include temperature treatment, gas treatment, chemical treatment, drying and so on. Sometimes these preservatives preserve color, firmness and other properties but do not preserve the nutrition of the food.
     Out Of Season, Greenhouse: Many people argue that when a plant is grown in conditions other than the natural state of growing, the plants will lose nutrition. Some examples of this may be using tap water (chlorinated, fluoride) to water a plant, raising the plant in a green house or under artificial lights inside. Many people claim that most tomatoes are grown in green houses and those are very deficient in many nutrients.
    Conventional Garden: For the reasons above, a conventional garden will provide more nutrition than industrial agriculture's versions of the same produce. This assumes you will wait for maturity before picking and eat the food soon after. In conventional gardens using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides the plant will favor taking up the nutrients from the fertilizer instead of nutrients from the soil food web. This means the vegetable or fruit will have an imbalance of nutrients (or not the same as it would normally have).
Food Security:
There are many things that can happen to the flow of food coming into our grocery stores (earthquake, flood, shortage, etc). In some ways, we can not control that. However, we can control what we bring or generate on our property.
     Start Simply: We are not saying you need to grow all the produce your family consumes. You can start simply by having a small garden. As you get better at growing you may want to increase the size of the garden and hence the amount of produce.
     Save The Seed: As the garden size increases, some plants could go to seed (bolt). If you let those seeds fall on the ground you may not need to get more seeds at the store the next year. As time goes on, you may also want to save some of the seeds in small containers, envelops or pouches. In general, the knowledge of how to grow and a portfolio of seeds will help you weather any threat to your family's food supply.
     Share Excess: As a garden produces more of what is needed, we encourage the sharing of produce with neighbors and friends. This may inspire them to have food bearing elements of their landscape, especially if you also share excess seed. This increases your food security in two ways. The neighbor is now protected and they may protect you when push comes to shove over food supplies.
     Dry Excess: If enough seed is grown and you and your neighbors get enough of your produce, you may consider storing some of the excess on your property. The easiest, lowest cost, and smallest volume way of storing the excess would be to dry the food. This can be done with all kinds of produce and the drying technology can be as cheap as free (the sun). If you have excess dried produce you may want to share it with your neighbors as well to build good will and food security in the community.
     Consider Canning: For many people, canning vegetables and fruit is not an option. It is messy, labor intensive and recommended procedures for food safety must be followed. However, if done right, canning food can put food in a very usable state for a very long time. You may be able to get the neighbors to help if you share the excess with them (further increasing your food security).

You can also further stockpile stuff from the grocery store, however, doing the above gives you better tools to be food secure. There is no dollar value we can assign to this section, however, the benefit of doing these things is priceless if there is a collapse of the flow of food to our grocery stores.

Time With Family, Friends and Community:

Geoff Lawton says, "All of the worlds problems can be solved in a garden." This statement can scale to any size. A garden can calm a person and bring a sense of inner peace and accomplishment. A garden can also bring a family, a community even a city together. We believe that if world leaders had personal gardens, they may gain valuable governing insights while tending them. It is also great for our children to connect to where food comes from and learn how it is grown. As the guerilla gardener (Ron Finley) points out, "... if a kid grows Kale, that kid will eat Kale."
     We have seen many examples of this in the last few decades. Small urban and suburban communities transform from dehydrated food deserts with high crime and garbage everywhere to communities where people actually know and work with each other. Some of these people are helping cities re-write their laws about people having gardens.
     A short list of people (organizations) who have have made these kinds of impacts on their community are:
Val and Eli in Jacksonville, FL, see one of their vids.
Urban Farming Guys in Kansas City, Mo, see their video.
Brad Lancaster in Tucson, Az. See one of his videos.
Ron Finley (Guerilla Gardener) South Central L.A. , Calf. See his TED talk.
Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Queens, New York, NY. See a video.
Hope Takes Root in Detroit, Mi. See a video of theirs.
Will Allen out of Milwaukee, Wi. See a video.
Seattle Community Farm in Seattle, Wa. See a video.
There are many more such organizations lowering crime and feeding the hungry in their communities.  If you look hard enough, you might find a local organization that you can join. If not, think about starting one. It is a great way to get to know your neighbors and for them to know you.

     Community gardening tends to create a space that is sacred. A place that is restful, relaxing and non-violent. Disagreements may occur but most of the time it can be worked out. Therefore, people have a great respect for gardens and even get very protective of them.
      That is also true of children that help in the garden. Children working in the garden put their devices away to do so. Children love digging in the dirt and will have friendly competition with others. That makes gardening fun and keeps the area protected. If they eat nutritious food, there tends to be less discipline problems and more learning going on in the schools.

Again, we can not give a money/time/resource calculation as to what all of this is worth. It is uncalculatable.

When And How Do I Start?

When?
Any time around now. No matter what time of year it is, you can plan what you want to do. It is best to assess the resources you currently have so that plans can be made using them.
How?
Start simply. You can read books, watch Youtube videos or keep reading the soil section of our web site. You will be an expert by the time you are done. We suggest you do not spend any money until you have a plan.

Glossary of Terms:

Earthworks - A structure designed to slow water flow on a landscape. This structure could be used to infiltrate more water into the soil like a swale on contour. This structure could also include organic material to absorb the water (hugelkultur).

Swale on Contour - A trench dug into the ground that follows the contour of the ground. The practice slows water flow over a landscape so that water can infiltrate into the soil.
Function Stacking - The practice of growing plants so that multiple purposes are fulfilled by growing the plants in close proximity. This stacking is generally though of as being a vertical (understory, over story) to obtain multiple yields.

Chop and Drop - The practice of trimming plants, shrubs and trees then putting those trimmings on the soil (usually the same place) instead of throwing the refuse away or composting it.

References:

http://www.no-tillfarmer.com/ No-till farmer web site. Good general information. taken 9/5/2015.

http://www.scotts.com/smg/goART3/Howto/lawn-watering-tips/33800022/12400007/32000006/18800019
, Lawn watering tips from Scots. Taken 12/23/2015.

http://www.burpee.com/gardening-supplies/watering/watering-your-garden-article10365.html, Watering Your Garden, Burpee Web Site, taken 1/11/2016