The reasons why so many people have taken to backyard and neighborhood gardening are legion. Some just want to get off the grid and live by the labor of their own hands. Some do it because it’s a great hobby. Some reject the current food industry and see this as a partial answer. Some seek a more simple life and see backyard gardening as a therapeutic way to de-stress. Some fear food challenges in our near future and are looking at gardening as a survival approach. Some just like the authentic taste of food that hasn’t been genetically modified or chemically treated. The reasons are not as important as the fact that backyard and neighborhood gardens are quickly becoming a foundational pillar to a sustainable future. I’d like to formalize, for the Sustainable Society Leader, another step in the evolution of the backyard and neighborhood garden: Social Media Free Enterprise.
Social Media Free Enterprise creates the opportunity for backyard/neighborhood farmers to sell, trade, barter or give their extra produce to someone who really wants or needs it. Facebook, Twitter and various other social mediums have just made it incredibly easier to do.
Throughout my travels in Africa and Asia, streets are crowded with individual vendors selling their home grown wares to the passersby. Even here in the United States, Farmer’s Markets are a Saturday morning ritual for many families, as farmers and “backyarders” offer deals that can challenge the local organic grocery store. When I present papers at the Sustainability Conference in Kampala, Uganda later this year, I will propose a more updated version of the street vendor, using tools like Facebook 4biz or even their standard social Facebook account to create simple trade to individuals for their product. This simple and accessible approach can help the backyarder to sell their products not only at the local farmer’s market, but in other neighborhoods, other cities, and eventually, between farmers and consumers in different countries. Even more, this can give backyarders an opportunity to give their product to places where drought and famine may be happening, cutting out the middle person and sending it directly to a person, family or country in need. The international aspect of this requires a host of other regulatory hurdles to be worked on, but I will be presenting these possibilities in detail at the conference.
The Social Media Free Enterprise trading opportunity not only develops relationships across borders, expands markets and creates opportunities, but it will keep the spirit of Free Enterprise alive. I am one to believe that Free Enterprise is a necessary element in the new phase of sustainability, where small and emerging vendors and growing businesses have an opportunity to buy and sell as opposed to leaving that privilege solely in the hands of large corporations. This kind of trade may not have the efficiencies of large corporate structures, and may not have the same safe guards in place for trading produce yet, but it does provide a sustainable alternative for those who seek another way forward. The way I see it, the biggest challenge to sustainability is when you are completely dependent upon large corporate structures for all of your basic needs. I would imagine many in the backyard and neighborhood garden movement people feel the same way. I believe we’ll always have corporate structures that provide us with goods and services, but I also believe the smart move is to have locally grown and controlled alternatives to food opportunities. What I’m suggesting here is that we can take that development a bit further so that it can be a profitable and practical endeavor for the backyarder.
The social media structure to find a broader audience for backyard product is there. In most countries, efficient delivery systems are there. People with product are there. The job of the Sustainable Society Leader is to help develop this possibility so that our entire food system is not dependent upon a few companies that may be “too big to fail”. Having more players spreads the risk and maintains a sustainability factor. Give this some thought as you till your backyard or neighborhood garden this weekend.
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