FARMVILLE DOESN’T COUNT. Nor does weed whacking or hoeing with Wii (if such a thing could be). But what’s going on over at Shared Earth—the Earth Day-launched online organization connecting farmers and gardeners with people with farming/gardening space (Shared Earth prosaically calls them “land owners”)—has exceptional appeal as an inspired venture that truly connects earth, that is, soil or dirt, with the thoroughly modern, Internet-enabled PC. Consider it a promising marriage of old school and new, a fresh kind of dirty, with similar “share” ventures and their best practices pointing the way: Craigslist, Angie’s List, Freecycle, Backpage and UrbanGardenShare, to name a few.
Shared Earth, on its homepage, puts it this way: “Land owners get to make more efficient use of their land. Gardeners and farmers get access to land. Our community is built on the premise that we can create a greener, more organic and efficient world one garden at a time.” The organization, free to join at this point, invites you to create either a garden or gardener profile, which then gets entered into a searchable listing. It’s kind of like an online dating service but for the gardening set—and you don’t even have to enter your astrological sign, favorite happy hour tipple or profess your undying love for Beverley Nichols, Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver or Michael Pollan.
What you do enter is, if you’re a gardener, a headline and description about your gardening, what you can grow, your years of experience (neophytes out there, you can select “none”), how the work and compensation will play out, and if you can provide your own tools. If you have a garden, you enter a headline and description about your garden, its size (the pulldown menu here goes from less than 50 feet to 150 acres), if it’s ready to plant or needs some assistance, if you’re going to help and when gardeners can access your space. That’s all there is to it. You’re in the system, ready to connect and share some earth.
Shared Earth has partnered with the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas, and the Coastal Conservation League in South Carolina, and is looking for additional partners and volunteers. It’s the brainchild of entrepreneur/venture capitalist Adam Dell who connected his land with a gardener online for his eureka!/voila! moment. As I write this, Shared Earth’s website proclaims, “28,079,280 square feet shared,” which to me is much better than “blankety-blank burgers served” any day of the week. There isn’t an imposing number of listings up yet, but they range in location from Brisbane and Nottingham to Little Rock and Onalaska (that’s in Washington state, BTW). And, please keep in mind, this Shared Earth thing is just getting started.
Farmville, Schmarmville—perhaps it’s time to get outside and try the real thing.