Got An Empty Yard

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a large and underutilized garden space in my backyard and a
large front yard that gets lots of sun. I have heard about the “grow
food not lawns” movement, and would like to figure out a way to offer
some space to a family or group that might benefit from the produce,
and maybe even who live in an apartment and might want to feel dirt
on their hands. Any ideas about how to locate such a family and what
kind of agreement to make with them?

Got An Empty Yard



Dear Empty Yard:

You have a full range of options. One is to hire a professional
landscaper and have that person put in a full garden for you, replete
with raised beds, berry bushes, and fruit trees. Then you could tend it
or find others to help you, in exchange for a share of the fruits and
veggies. Another is to locate a family through a sustainability network,
a local foods network, or a non-profit that assists families in need. You
can post a description of what is available, and what you want in
exchange. For example: Local homeowner with XxY square feet of
sunny garden space wants to help a family in a cooperative gardening
project. Please email me at if you are
interested in helping plant and maintain a garden space in exchange
for 2/3 of the produce. Homeowner will bear all costs of planting and
watering, in exchange for help with weeding and pre- and post-season

I would suggest some boundaries between the shared garden space
and your private backyard space. I’d keep access to the backyard
limited to times when you are at home and can supervise what is
going on. I’d also keep the yard locked, in part because you don’t want
your home to become vulnerable if less scrupulous people hear about
the access. You may make good new friends from this venture. And
you may find that a non-profit group wants to sponsor this activity, so
there’s a rotating cast of visitors. Your neighbors may be enthusiastic
and follow your model, or cautiously concerned. I’d alert them to your
plans to forestall criticism. Note: Check your community statutes to be
sure this plan is legal. There are a surprising number of regulations
about what you can do with your property.