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Living Lightly column

Community Cornucopia

By Chris McGorlick

 At the height of summer, and as the cusp of Autumn approaches, there is a highly seasonal occurrence that I relish every year. It’s not the flowering of an exotic plant, nor the arrival of a migratory creature, nor the fruiting of a particular vegetable. But rather, the proliferation of harvest stalls and freely distributed produce.

As surely as sunshine follows rain, so too can I expect to see great bags of crunchy fruit being exchanged through the community following the pollination of the first cucumber flowers. As the slow trickle of ripe tomatoes become rapids, the excess is left in public baskets for folks to help stem the flow. Requests for homegrown lemons on my community Facebook page turn to pleas for people to help themselves from kerbside cardboard boxes, as the heat causes fruit to drop.

As I have wandered my local streets, I have seen produce filled wheelbarrows marked ‘help yourself’, free produce baskets on fences, boxes of free food for distribution on shop counters, and the seasonal abundance on my community garden’s stall can be swapped for a donation. Starting in the era of COVID, and continuing today, this stall has become an important drop off point for excess fresh produce from gardens across the whole community.

I believe that gifting food is one of the strongest acts of care we can offer one another. The value of this food is not counted in calories, but rather the embodied human energy spent coaxing it from the ground over weeks and months.

The sheer abundance of some foods at this time might seem to diminish this value. (We’ve all run from a well meaning neighbour armed with a bag of zucchinis one February or another). But for me, it poses a far more exciting question – what would it take to be completely produce sovereign in my street? In my town?

If my street is home to 10 green thumbs, could we grow enough cucumbers for everyone? Could our garlic stash tide the whole street over winter? Could we swap the shop at the bottom of the street for our veggie beds, verge gardens, and verandah grow-boxes?

The discoveries on my wanderings have led me to believe that we are closer to this reality than we might think.