George Graham

Communal Market Gardens Might Be a Good Idea

Prime Minister Bruce Golding is reportedly urging Jamaicans to plant back yard gardens in response to the world food crisis. That’s a good idea, of course, and people all over the world would be wise to follow his advice.

When I lived in Timmins, in Northern Ontario, I noticed that while most Anglo-Canadian families devoted their yards to lawns and flowers, residents who were of Italian origin, planted tomatoes, beans and other vegetables instead.

One problem with that, especially today, is that in most urban areas, the Code Enforcement Board would descend on you with a vengeance if you did anything like that. You are supposed to plant grass, and in many places they even tell you how high you can let the grass grow.

Fortunately, here in Lakeland, I can still have fruit trees on my lot.

I have oranges, lemons, limes and tangerines. I also have two mango trees, three avocado trees, a loquat fig tree, a peach tree, a pear tree and a grape vine that my brother Bill gave me.

In a large clay pot, I have tomatoes I grew from seeds and a red-pepper plant I got at Wal-Mart.

So far, only the citrus and mango trees have produced anything to eat. I am amazed at how long it takes for a plant to bear fruit.

Also, when the mango and citrus trees bear, I have a surplus of fruit. But for most of the year they produce nothing. It would be helpful to belong to a group that shares harvests all year ’round.

I think Mr. Golding — and other world leaders — should explore the possibility of creating such groups. One thing they could do is make government land (even in urban areas) available for community farming, with separate plots for area residents to grow various kinds of food. With a little planning, the food production could be managed so that provisions were available for distribution throughout the year.

Administration and distribution would be placed in the hands of an elected cooperative, supervised by the Department of Agriculture.

The people who did the work would be rewarded, of course. But the food would be distributed on the basis of need, either at very low prices or for free.

I am sure there is a lot of vacant land around the world, even in the most developed areas. The owners of that land should be required to rent it for collective farming until it is developed. Vacant government-owned land also should be made available at low rents.

I know, I know. I sound like a Communist. But I am not really. I am just someone who doesn’t want to go hungry when the shops run out of food.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for

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