Liz McLellan is the creator of a social network that aims to assist people who want to grow their own food and help them find a place where they can do so.
After 25 years in the tech field as a Web strategist for non-profits and user interface specialist, Liz McLellan started Hyperlocavore - A Free Yard Sharing Community to encourage people to grow food with their friends, family and neighbors.
Hyperlocavore is a social networked yard sharing community dedicated to helping people build resilience in their neighborhoods.
BE: Tell me a bit about yourself, for example, how did you get involved in the local food movement?
LM: Well, I was raised in the Bay Area by a foodie from a big family of foodies. So I have always appreciated what food means to family, how we celebrate with it, how it brings people together and how intimately involved it is in our best memories of home if we are the lucky ones who came from families who made good food central to their joy. I've been an activist in other areas of my life but became more involved in seeing the world through the lens of sustainability about 15 years ago. Here's the story.
My friend Brian was the first to play "Where Did that Come From" with me really, looking at our food and asking how far did it travel. That question broke open a whole lot of systems and relationships for me. The yard sharing idea is something I've been thinking about since I was a kid.
I used to live in SF and there are these large spaces in the middle of city blocks that often go unused. Everyone has their little fenced off plot but very few people seem to make use of their space. It always seemed to me you could create a little paradise in the middle, a safe place for the kids, an outdoor kitchen...
When the economy started to tank I thought well why don't I build something that makes it possible for people to share space, tools and seeds. I've been in technology for 20 years and thought the time was right to build it. The wait lists in some towns for community garden plots are years long so I knew there was a need...I found out later about Portland Yardsharing.
I wanted to build a flat system that allowed anyone anywhere to start right up without wading through a lot of red tape or organizational hassle. It really is just a matter of getting a few people together planning and planting your garden.
BE: - What is a hyperlocavore as compared to a locavore?
LM: Well, a locavore hopes to source his or her families food from sustainable growers and producers within 100 miles of where they live wherever and whenever possible. We of course, support that idea 100%. A hyperlocavore wants to make that distance more like 6 to 8 feet. We like to source our food where and when possible from our yards or a yard close by. We want to get more people into growing their own together.
A substantial garden can be a lot of work and it works well to share the work and the harvest. Gardeners live longer, eat better and save a lot of money. Start a garden and drop your gym membership!
BE: What is yardsharing?
LM: Yardsharing is what the people who are in the agreement want it to be. We don't dictate or design that relationship. For some folks its a group of family members or friends turning a back yard into a minifarm that can feed them all cheaply. For another yardshare it might be a young couple in an apartment helping and older lady with a large garden in exchange for some of the harvest.
For an enterprising young urban farmer it will be the means to access enough land to start a profitable suburban CSA operation. For a faith community it might be a way for the members to grow food for the hungry and homeless in their community by putting their land and members in a service relationship to those in need.
The creative use of the site and the agreements people come up with to suit their situation are really up to each particular group. We are here to help you find like minded folks, show you how to be successful in the garden and share your triumphs and tribulations. The idea is very contagious though so be warned. You might catch a horrible case of joyfulness. Garden soil is an anti-blues drug. It's science!
BE: How can someone get started with a yardsharing project in their community?
LM: Well first you have to find willing co-conspirators to start your first garden. Doing that successfully, taking pictures, blogging it and really working through a season together, pot lucking and sharing the experience successfully will help you help others get started. I am of the Don't Tell, Show, Don't talk, Do school of change. You need to grow stuff, share it, and break bread together. Have open garden days, garden potlucks and block parties and operate on the pleasure principle and draw people to the idea by showing people what the good life looks like by living it. If it's not fun for you, you are doing it wrong!
BE: How widespread is yardsharing. i.e. what cities have yardsharing organizations?
LM: We have folks from all over using the site, over 200 groups so far. People join every day looking for growing partners and yards to help in. A dirtless digger is a desperate creature! So really come by. It just takes you and a friend to start where you are. We have materials that can help you get people in your area interested in the idea, fliers.
BE: Do you believe that consuming locally produced food can have a positive impact on a local economy and, if so, why?
LM: Yes. The cost of everything we buy can be sliced into advertising, lobbying, processing, shipping and most importantly CEO pay. When we buy locally a much larger percentage of that pie goes to the people who actually grew the food. That is important for real family farms and sustainability in general and your local economy in particular.
The more money that is circulated locally and not taken out of your community in the form of stocks, dividends and bonuses for corporate VPs the better off you and yours will be in the long run. But it's not just the money - It's also the relationships you build with the growers, with the restaurant owners, hopefully with the people who make your kids school lunches the more at home in the world you will become. It may make sense to you to buy a tasteless tomato from the other side of the world...until you bite into one you grew.