It Just Might Work: Kibbutz-style gardening

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Danielby Daniel Wirtheim

It’s easy to get lost in romanticizing about life on a kibbutz, which is essentially a socialist utopia where food is plenty and everyone is healthy. Kibbutzim were communal farms set up by Jewish Zionist settlers in early 20th Century. Aside from the brand of kibbutz promoted today that are making sandals and hosting traveling volunteers, the early kibbutz movement was based on agriculture and provided most of the diet for settlers in the deserts of Ottoman-controlled Palestine.

Taking notes from the kibbutz movement could boost community garden output in any city and in particular the Greensboro-High Point area, which was recently dubbed one of the hungriest places in America.

Think of a food desert, a place devoid of real food markets where community members hunt for ramen noodles and soda at convenience stores. There may be a community garden in the area, but it’s highly unlikely that it provides enough produce to sustain even a single household. A little restructuring could have a huge impact on these gardens.

The standard model for a community garden is based around family plots. One family is only responsible for only what they planted. Sure, there are a few Good Samaritans that might water a neighbor’s lettuce bed, but holding a volunteer accountable for the entire garden means that things get done, that garden members are held responsible for the wellbeing of the garden and their efforts are rewarded, too.

In a kibbutz, products are bought with vouchers indicating the amount of work each person has contributed. A 15-year-old kid who spends a few hours in the garden could bring home a basket of fresh zucchini while developing a work ethic. Neighborhoods with a large portion of immigrants or low-income workers, which are most at risk for living in food deserts would benefit from having their own food source with fresh veggies.

It’s a longshot, but so was setting up a kibbutz in the middle of a desert.