Wednesday, February 10, 2010



Sustainability is a word that gets tossed around quite a bit lately. Current usage seems to encompass the idea that one can be sustainable on a piece of land, large or small, and live well. Self-sustainability seems to be the mantra of the day.

Yet recently I read an article in Fall 2008 Mother Earth News magazine of a couple that live in Japan and practice a Japanese form of sustainability called community-sustainability. With self-sustainability one is more or less inward thinking, individualistic, about his food production on the land, while in Japan the idea of community-sustainability means that it is grown communally with neighbors of all ages. The elderly are especially prized in such an endeavor as they carry wisdom of planting, harvesting, and types of plants that grow well in the their environment.


In the sixties, here in the states communal living was popular and some communes grew produce

communally. With time, communes fell by the wayside. Today, my question is why neighborhoods can’t become communal when it comes to raising a garden, modeling after the Japanese idea of community-sustainability. Much would be gained from this idea as the whole of the community would have common interests and a sharing of production.

This seems to be a better method then striking out on ones own to learn from the bottom up. Why reinvent the wheel when there are people in your community that have much wisdom when it comes to gardening.


Now I am quite sure that community-sustainability is practiced in some parts of the U.S. but it just doesn’t go by that name. The closest idea to this is community gardens that some cities and towns have begun for the citizens in their area. However, the participants of these gardens don’t necessarily share a common neighborhood. My feeling is that we would be wise to covert the name of self-sustainability to community- sustainability and promote harmony based on gardens and other wisdom ideas. Not that everyone would agree on everything but dialogue and working with each other promotes harmony.


  1. Here are a few links for groups practicing community based sustainability gardening here in the United States. One is based in Detroit and the other New York City.



  2. Darcy -- Thanks so much for the links to community based sustainability in the U.S. I'm going to check out the links. Its nice to know that there are gardens following this idea. -- barbara

  3. Interesting post about community sustainability. Here in southeastern West Virginia we are losing a lot of local wisdom as the elders expire without passing on their knowledge of gardening and other basic country skills. I think they would gladly share it, but it seems like our youth is caught up in the consumer culture and has no interest in such things. Although we sell produce from our market garden here at the farm, the garden is still somewhat communal since we have people who help us with planting, harvesting, and preserving the harvest in exchange for fresh fruits and vegetables.

    The scarecrow pictures are fantastic! Looking at these images has given me another idea for a farm event...a scarecrow making contest. I'll have to flesh out the details, but it sounds like it would be a fun event for young and old at the farm. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Thomas -- Thank you for your nice comments.

    I like your way of including local people to work in your market garden in exchange for produce. This is an idea I am not familiar with, but, surely it would be a good idea to promote.

    It would be fun to have a scarecrow contest. Having a scarecrow in your garden was a common tradition in my youth. I remember my dad building one in our basement for our vegetable garden. When I went out looking for homemade scarecrows for this post, I was amazed how difficult it was to even find two. Especially as there are lots of home gardens in this area. I asked locals if they knew of some and they couldn't think of any. Unfortunately, this tradition, I believe, is becoming a dying breed in this area, . Perhaps people like you can begin to re-introduce this fine tradition in southeastern West Virginia.