In 1996, I moved to State College in order to pursue graduate studies. It was during this time that I encountered multiple people and perspectives that were life altering. In these encounters, I grew to love State College and the possibility of building a life based upon the ideals of neighborliness, learning to do more for myself (self-sufficiency), and then sharing what I know (and have, as well as being the beneficiary of what others know and have) so that a “web of relatedness” and friendship might be co-created—all in the service of community.
At our home on S. Pugh St. (a home I share with my partner, Christopher Uhl and our daughter, Katie Uhl), we have taken steps to realize our ideals. These steps include: backyard chickens, a small apiary, a front-yard terrace garden, a backyard “mini-farm,” numerous fruit trees and shrubs, a roof-top water collection system (and bici-bomba, a bicycle powered pumping system), and a wood-fired bread oven. With these many initiatives, we have both been the beneficiary of others’ sharing as well as have shared know-how, garden harvests, tools and more with others. In short, we have endeavored to contribute to our neighborhood in ways that are mutually rewarding.
An outgrowth of our “home-based” efforts is Veggiecommons. “Commons” (see the work of recent Nobel laureate in the economic sciences, Elinor Ostrom) refers to something (a forest or fishery or grazing land) that is shared and “co-managed” by many diverse peoples, with diverse needs. The idea of commons appeals to me as it historically referred to something that rested outside of strict economic imperatives, implying that people sought their own and others’ interests in common. Thus, the ideals of sharing, of self-limitation, of sustaining that upon which many depend rose to the fore.
What most excites me about Veggiecommons is the possibility of taking land that is currently in lawn and transforming into garden space (or mini-farms, if you like) and then using these gardens to grow food that many can enjoy. From my experience, when people come together to grow food (in whatever ways they can contribute—by allowing their land to be used, by sharing water or tools, by pulling weeds, by sharing their gardening knowledge, by digging and the like), they are necessarily bound together in more generous, convivial, nurturing ways. In other words, they are in more direct relationship with their own bodies and hands, with soil, and with other folks to whom bonds of neighborliness (even friendship) can take hold. It is to these “hopes” that Veggiecommons is committed.