"Please do not steal the Vegetables!!"


Please Do Not Steal The Vegetables.png

This summer Chicagoans have been treating community gardens like personal food banks. 

After spending their summer carefully cultivating fruits, herbs and vegetables, some community gardeners are being beaten to the harvest by vegetable thieves. While not as expensive as rubies, diamonds and emeralds, these tomatoes, cucumbers and melons are just as tempting and pricey. Heirloom plants and seeds that are all the rage can be more expensive than recent cultivars. These plants that new community gardeners favor sell for top dollar at farmers markets around Chicago. Then there are also the costs associated with being a member of a community garden. In allotment-style community gardens, gardeners rent plots to plant in every year.

(use the arrows in upper-right corner of gallery to navigate pictures)

Like with a burglary or a car theft, vegetable theft can leave a gardener shaken. Christopher Weber, a freelance writer in Chicago, recently blogged about a rash of veggie thefts at the community garden within Jackson Park. After listing the range of emotions the thefts left him feeling, he asked his readers for ideas on the best way to cope with the experience. 

After a community garden has been plundered it is normal to feel everything from anger; to pitty at the thought of the thief perhaps not having food security. Once the initial shock wears off there are measures community gardeners take to minimize theft. 

Personalizing the Garden

Creating a garden sign with your name and a message can help you channel that anger and create something beautiful. This approach reminds me of the movies where someone held captive starts to talk about themselves to their kidnapper in an effort to illicit sympathy. Sometimes it works and the person is let go, but most of the time it doesn’t. After a string of veggie thefts the members of the Growing Station community Garden in the Pilsen neighborhood created personalized signs. The signs haven’t stopped vegetables from being taken, but they have spruced up the garden and strengthened gardener’s ties to the garden.

Chicago community gardener tells story about confronting veggie thief.png

Chicago community gardener tells story about confronting veggie thief

On a recent trip to this garden to photograph these garden signs (see gallery above) a member who lived nearby stopped me and a friend to ask us what we were doing in the garden. I explained to him that I was only interested in taking pictures and he told me about the various people he encounters stealing veggies from the garden. One lady who brought her own grocery bag justified her theft by saying that people routinely shoot each other or sell drugs nearby. 

Sacrificial Lambs

The 65th and Woodlawn Community Garden uses signs asking people not to pick plants, but they also have a sacrificial garden. A thickly planted area outside a fence where neighborhood residents are free to forage. Ben Helphand, Executive Director of Neighbor-Space, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens, believes communal spaces where neighbors can pick produce are a great idea. “Not only is it a steppingstone for future gardeners but it provides an outlet for those who just have to pick something,” says Helphad. 

When the signs and pick-it-yourself garden patch doesn’t work it is time to start a dialog between garden members and local residents. 

Involving the Community

While personalized garden signs with pleas not to pick the vegetables may not deter all vegetable thiefs, theft could be reduced with community outreach. Canvassing the neighborhood and explaining the purpose of the community garden can create an atmosphere of respect for the garden. People will be less likely to steal plants and produce if they know that people are feeding their families from it or produce is being contributed to local food banks. Open days where non-members are invited to see the plots up close and talk to members can build ties with local residents. 

Betty Redmond, Garden Leader at the Bowmanville Gateway Garden tells a funny story of neighbor’s attempt to thwart a garden thief. A neighbor saw a uniformed paramedic in the garden one day taking produce. The “do-gooder” called the number on the side of the ambulance to report the suspected thief to his supervisor. As it turned out, the supervisor was aware of the situation, because the paramedic had asked for time to work in the garden. When he was reported to his supervisor he was harvesting tomatoes from the community garden, where he volunteers, for the Stone Soup Kitchen. 

Involving the community in your community garden can not only bring in new gardeners and volunteers, you’ll gain extra eyes who can act as a neighborhood watch. 

Do good fences make good neighbors? 

“From NeighborSpace’s perspective a big fence and a lock should be the absolute last strategy a garden turns to,” advises Helphad. 

Garden theft isn’t something isolated to neighborhoods undergoing a transition. From Pilsen to Bowmanville to even a community garden in Forest Park, IL., these gardens are being targeted by people who feel they have the right to reap the hard work of gardeners.

Please do not steal the vegetables, you didn’t grow them.

Have you nurtured a tomato or cucumber all summer long just to have it stolen? Share your story in the comments below. If you have tips on how to minimize garden theft, share that too.

Update: The sign above asking people to “Please do not steal the Vegetables!!” has itself been stolen from the garden it was used in. Is there a more appropriate end to this gardening season that saw community garden raided by residents who didn’t help grow any of the food?


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  • Well that really s*cks.

    Guess I lead a fairly sheltered life - don't think I've had veggies stolen, at least not that I know of. About 30 years ago I lived in a corner house with an unfenced yard. Kids would cut through the yard on their way to school. They'd pick my flowers on their way to school in the morning, until I decided to enjoy my coffee while sitting on the back steps every morning around 8:15. I was reduced to being guard dog for my flowers for a few years, until we moved. If I didn't do it, they picked everything I had as it bloomed. I got a break when they were off for the summer, and it started back up again in fall.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    That's hilarious. I've often been tempted to spend my days on the porch looking out for people who steal my blooms but it seems too daunting a task. Came home from road trip to find my runner beans blooming. I thought about photographing them, but decided I'd do it the next day after I got some sleep. The next day all the blooms had been plucked.

    I was p*ssed.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    A little girl would stop by each afternoon and pick a handful of flower from my front bed. Once day, the mother came with her and was horrified to learn where her little girl had gotten the flowers she had brought home. I replied that the wonder in her daughter's face was far more glorious than any bloom and how lucky she was to have a daughter who loved her so. I planted zinnias, sunflowers and columbines especially for her bouquets and was rewarded with the pleasure of that little girl's happy chatter. Is there not enough seed (even in the heritage packets) to plant one for you and some for them? It is in human nature to find joy in giving to others when our efforts are lauded but it's when we give without return that we are closest to Jesus's teaching. I realize just how hard it is to put in practice but the next time a fruit is stolen, think of it as your hand passing along God's sunshine and sustenance to someone unaware :). Blessings and bountiful fruit to you friend.


  • In reply to jollyjokerpansy:

    That's a really good story, but I can't help be jaded and think it is a little idealistic. As a gardener I'm sure you know that gardening can seem like a part-time job and the only pay comes in the form of the flowers and vegetables you get to enjoy. Now, when someone comes around and picks those without asking, isn't that like working for free or handing someone your paycheck at the end of the week? I don't know of too many people who would work a PT job and not expect to get paid.

    Anyway, I like your story and I really appreciate you sharing it. Also, I appreciate you signing up to comment, if you're a fellow blogger a link to your blog in your profile by clicking on your name. I try to return comments by bloggers who stop by here.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    Interesting how urban setting lead to human thievery and suburban settings next to a park lead to animal thievery. Raccoons have eaten nearly all my tomatoes and they also ate all the blooms off my beans earlier in the season. Before that it was the @#$% groundhog. Not sure what I'd do with human thieves... maybe plant a castor bean with a sign POISONOUS. It IS frustrating and depressing to lose plants, esp. food, after putting so much care and resources into it... I can rationalize that wildlife needs to eat, but it's another thing for fellow humans (who presumably have access to food elsewhere) to steal!

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:


    But what as others have pointed out below the person needs it? And how can/do we differentiate between the immoral and the hungry when we don't know who stole it?

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    Electric fence.

  • In reply to xphillipjrx:


  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    We often assume, here in Chicago, that a community garden is a perfect experiment. I mean what else captures so prettily wholesome ideas of frugality, nutrition, GREENness, community outreach, restoration of neglected urban areas, etc.???
    I'm not sure if I've ever heard anyone say this before... so critical comments are appreciated... BUT- I don't think community gardens are all that great! Actually...let me rephrase that. I don't think community gardens planted in poor, neglected, troubled Chicago neighborhoods are nearly as beneficial as they are chalked up to be. I basically have 3 reasons to think this.

    1. Some of the community gardens I've interacted with seem to be incomplete enterprises undecided whether they will bring nutritional support or act as a capital building commercial enterprise. I have yet to encounter a community farming project that provides large supplies of produce to a big chunk of the neighborhood population. Its harvest may be siphoned to a food bank or a few families will have big time access to veggies which is great!- but not really a

  • In reply to nickyv:


    Thanks for the comment. You bring up some interesting points and issues. I think we need to differentiate between a community garden and an urban farm. Then we could separate urban farms into two categories. Those that are for profit ventures, like the kind you mention, and those that are teaching resources (Windy City Harvest, Growing Home Inc & more) or provide job training.

    I think in most cases community gardens are started by local residents and the people who join are local. Other than that, I agree with a lot of what you're saying about these people who move into neighborhoods that are poor and downtrodden just to farm and sell to yuppies and don't contribute to the neighborhood.

    If you're a blogger add a link to your blog in your profile so I can visit your blog.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    hey mbt... thanks for being open to this discussion going down... and sorry for some of my blurring of terms (that you've pointed out) and for any perceived hostility. This is just a fascinating issue for me that I'm just starting to really learn about. I had just heard about theft from CG's the night before I read this and it made me continue to think about ways in which I've suspected urban farming projects to be poorly integrated in some cases.

    But if a bunch of people (like in Xan's case) have their own little plots getting robbed... well its probably just people being uncool, you know?

    Anyways, thanks for the post and the discussion.

    are you involved in a garden in lawndale? any way i can get more info about that?

  • In reply to nickyv:

    No, thanks to you and Xan for having the discussion and it not turning into a flame war. I learned a bit reading the exchange.

    While I'm not part of a community garden, I may know people who are. Are you talking about North Lawndale or Little Village (South Lawndale)?

  • In reply to nickyv:

    I've had a read thru many of these comments and without wanting to ignore some of the issues raised, make these simple observations based on our experience here in a Sydney community verge garden. Firstly, about 2 days after we planted the first bed, we had a tomato, basil, leek and something else nicked. So, I decided to put up a sign, just letting people know that it was a community vs personal garden, and I put a website for the garden on it. Since then (about 9 months ago) we've had a couple of things go missing, and a couple of drunken people walk thru it, but by and large it changed people's view. (Someone wrote on the website that before the sign went up she thought it was just some other disgruntled resident colonising the verge...)

    Secondly, I know from the huge number of people that stop and talk when you're out working in it that they LOVE it being there. Even if they don't want to take anything from it or work in it. For some reason - and this NOT being a controlled experiment I can't really assess this - I speculate that they wouldn't react in quite the same way if it were just a garden of flowers vs veges. Lots of people have also dropped in with seedlings and worm poo...

    Thirdly, it has really got young and old mixing in a way that has surprised us. Parent seems to want their kids involved (many of whom have no idea where veges come from - or horse poo apparently) and I've noticed that the people in their late 60s, 70-s and up love getting out and giving a bit of advice and working with the under 5s...even if they do like to rip a few things out...Anyway, I know this ignores a lot of the issues being canvassed by Rick and Xan, but I like to keep it a bit simple. We started a verge garden, we deliberately wanted it to grow organically (excuse lame pun) so I have resistred the impulse to organise things particularly; we have a pretty relaxed approach to who gets what produce and so far rely mostly on 'neighbourhood watch' and people doing the right thing. So far it's ok - altho summer poses more risks with just the sheer number of drunken yoof of today, but, hey, they're plants, and while losing the leek I've nurtured for 7 freakin months pisses me off and the footsteps of someone who might have walked from their car over seedlings to take a short cut to the other side makes me shake my head in amazement, I really just have to plant another one or put a little 'mini roadbloack' in their way, as a visual cue to do the right thing...Time will of course tell. cheers

  • In reply to amandajf:

    Hi, thanks so much for sharing your experience with your garden.

  • In reply to amandajf:

    How did I miss this article before? This is a really nice piece of writing. I love the idea of the sacrificial garden.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:


    Thanks so much for the clarification and additional details about what you're working with. Yes, the situation you're describing does indeed sound very different from either what we're trying to do at Peterson Garden Project-- which is to teach people how to create and manage backyard and community gardens-- and urban farming projects (or any urban revitalization projects) that don't take local needs and conditions into account, or involve local citizens in leadership roles. By all means, come up to Peterson Garden anytime-- someone from the leadership team is almost always there on weekends.

    But one thing I absolutely won't concede-- you cannot run a business without a lock on the door. As our mayor would say, it's just common sense.

    Thanks for a great discussion that hasn't devolved! Best of the web.

  • In reply to nickyv:

    Wow. What a very fancily written attack on community gardens. LOL

    I think you are referring to something completely different here. Sure, there are urban farms where food is grown for needy families in the community, but the average "community garden" as we know it is built so that folks who don't have a space to garden at home can have a space to garden. Most of the members of our community garden in Forest Park live in apartments or condos and our garden provides a place for them to grow a little food for themselves. We do have 3 plots reserved for food pantry patrons and all the food grown there is donated. The bad thing is that most food pantry organizations don't even want to deal with fresh organic fruits and veggies because of storage and shelf life issues. Twinkies last for 65 years but a fresh tomato needs to be used right away. Our own food pantry has not been nearly as excited to take our donations as we thought they might be, but we're working through that.

    I don't think any community garden expects or professes to go into a community and remedy all its problems but I do believe they foster a sense of community. I met the group of friends I tend to hang out with most through our community garden. And I have never lived anywhere that I've felt so connected to and protective of my community. And our community garden is 100% responsible for that.

  • In reply to nickyv:

    As you briefly mentioned in your post, MBT, we've experienced a lot of theft at the Forest Park Community Garden. Apparently some people see our garden as a regular free grocery store for themselves. They've been spotted driving up in their car and taking their shopping bag from plot to plot taking what they want. We are also having (an even more concerning) problem with intimidation and threatening behavior at the garden. Recently one of our female gardeners was at the garden by herself one evening when a man (who was accompanied by two other men standing near the entrance to the park) approached her by surprise and demanded that she give him a tomato. He said "I live in Forest Park, so give me a tomato." I'm not sure exactly what happened after that but he ended up leaving without taking anything. But, our gardener was very frightened of the situation. Just last week I believe a woman was raped while tending her community garden plot near Aurora at 2 in the afternoon. It is clear that we are talking about more than a veggie theft issue at this point.

    When we started our community garden we weren't concerned about fences and security. If people take some veggies, it must mean that they really need the veggies. I'm not sure if I really believe that anymore. I think some people just see it as an opportunity to get something for free. For all I know they are stealing it to sell somewhere else. We also have a few homeless people who live near the park but all indications is that they are not the ones responsible for any of the theft of threatening behavior.

    I'm not sure what we'll do to deal with these problems. We will probably investigate installing a fence and lock, although we always said we didn't want to do that on principal. But at this point, I'm more concerned about the safety of our gardeners and restricting access to the garden seems like a good way to make it safer. I know people can easily jump fences, so I know a fence can't solve everything, but I do think it could help significantly.

  • In reply to snappyjdog:

    Hi SnappyJDog,

    I saw the tweets by SnarkyVegan about some of the problems going on and hope you ladies stay safe. I read about that poor woman in Aurora this morning and I just can't imagine that happening. Damn, that is one horrible story.

  • In reply to snappyjdog:

    Many interesting thoughts here regarding community gardens, and it seems the discussion has drifted from just theft to considering the role of community gardens in the community. I don't know what "a perfect experiment" would look like, but I do know, after some eight years tending to my garden in Humboldt Park, that it is still far from perfect, and yet it has been an invaluable asset to the community. I know this because people from the surrounding community come up and tell me so, even if they do not find the time to volunteer in the garden.

    Some of the comments here have touched upon safety and security for the garden and for gardeners. It's not something I like to bring up frequently, but I've had more than one occasion to administer first aid while being out in my neighborhood. On one afternoon in particular a group of children came screaming into the garden after one of them, a twelve year old girl, had gotten her arm slashed open in a rather nasty accident. Thankfully, I was gardening with my friends that afternoon, and because we were in the garden, these children were able to quickly find adults who could calmly take care of the situation, administer first aid, and summon the paramedics.

    It's probably not the type of story that most people think of when they think of community gardening, but it is the type of situation that has taught me that whatever my efforts may be in the garden, tending to the community is more important than tending to the flower beds. After all, the first word in 'community gardening' is 'community.' If I end up with a few tomatoes at the end of the season, I just consider that a bonus.

    Incidentally I am thinking of building a complete cage around my tomato bed next year, but it isn't on account of any pilfering hipsters. It's the squirrels that I want to keep at bay.

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

  • In reply to copedog:

    Copedog, Thanks for signing up to comment. You bring up an interesting benefit of having a community garden in the neighborhood. There's usually always someone there and they can help like you helped that young girl, plus extra people who are aware of their surroundings makes a neighborhood safer.

  • In reply to copedog:

    "...pilfering hipsters." That would be a perfect name for an indy band.

  • In reply to copedog:

    I think you've touched on one of the most valuable aspects of a community garden. It gets people able, makes them accessible, means that there are people watching what takes place around the neighborhood. Jane Jacobs would be proud!

  • In reply to copedog:

    Glad to hear about what's going on in Humboldt copedog. It sounds like you've contributed significantly to organization, feelings of pride, and even safety to your community! The perfect may be the enemy of the good... but I'm sure you would have alot to add to a critical discussion of the role of gardens of all kinds in communities of all kinds.

  • In reply to nickyv:

    This is what I call a "neener neener neener" comment. Essentially, letting the problems define an issue and dismissing, or worse excoriating, that issue, based on the problems. The classist premise of this post is particularly disturbing, maligning the motivations of community organizers as outsiders, elitist, and ego-driven. Trust me, as an old hand at not-for-profit, that people in these professions do not enter them lightly, as it basically means a lifetime of poverty and job insecurity.

    Community gardens have problems not because they are "elitist" but quite the opposite, because they are driven by community need from the people IN the community and therefore perhaps lacking in the skills, resources and connections that make the best community organizing successful. Maybe if some of these community gardens had the benefit of elitist outsiders helping them work through the problems, they'd be more successful.

    Finally, I've never understood why it's okay to have fences and locks in lakefront highrises and private parks, but it's somehow wrong for people in poor neighborhoods to take advantage of such a simple and obvious security measure.

  • In reply to naxn:

    who dismissed anything? I was clear in saying I think community gardens in poor neighborhoods, urban farming and everything in between are a good idea! Its an important trend in urban life and because of that I do think they warrant some serious critical discussion. I'd like to respond better tommorow- but for now i'll say-
    1. I think probably what i really want to talk about is urban farming more than a community garden. I realize my first post is sort of illegitimate with this blurring of clear terms... but I'm not totally sure.

    2. If my tone was haughty or acerbic I apologize. Like I said... I brought up POSSIBLE criticism in my post. If you've been involved in a well thought out helpful not for profit, charity, community project or whatever... Great! Tell me about it... but don't dismiss my discussion as cantankerous rabble rousing and empty contention.

    3. in reference to misuse of terms- Mr. Green thumb is talking about "areas undergoing a transition" (poor). And he's not talking about specifically about theft from a co op, multi private plot situation. All sorts of growing crops in the city situations are fair game for comment.

    and 4 let me put an emphasis on this-
    I'm not dismissing CG's, urban farms or anything. I admire them! You've dismissed my argument if you accuse me of irritated naysaying without responding to the substance of my criticism.

  • In reply to nickyv:

    I went back and re-read the original comment, and it still seems rather dismissive to me, but I'll accept your statement that this was not your intent. I think what I'm seeing from your argument is a frustration with the way edible home gardens/community gardens/urban farming COULD work as opposed to the way they DO work. Home and community gardens, organized by "grewbies" (inexperienced gardeners, and thanks to Peterson Gardens for coming up with the term!) are going to be messy, failure-prone, and problematic just like any home-grown enterprise started by people with little or no experience. Some of them succeed, some of them fail. By themselves, they are not going to solve systemic problems in deteriorating neighborhoods, and I don

  • In reply to naxn:

    Xan thanks for the discussion! Peterson Garden looks like a great project

  • In reply to nickyv:

    error in bottom of 2nd to last paragraph
    It strikes me as weird that people think they can just jump into the ghetto with knowing smiles and a bag [OF SEEDS] and do something great

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    When I lived in Schaumburg, I had a community garden plot. My garden plot neighbor lived right next to the garden and caught a couple stealing produce. He confronted them and they took off but the damage had already been done. They stole tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers from us. The plot next to us, they took all of his eggplant, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Another plot near us, they just ripped the plants apart when taking veggies. So not only did they steal the produce, they destroyed the plants. Really ticked me off.

  • In reply to vegandivablog:

    I wonder if the garden theft is worse when the gardener lives right next to the garden. It is one thing to be robbed and another thing to be robbed by someone you know or will bump into in the neighborhood. Thanks for sharing your story. Hope you're still gardening.

    If you have a blog add a link to it in your profile so I can visit.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I heard about the theft shortly after I visited the Growing Station for the first time. While walking through the garden my wife said, "what will prevent people from stealing from this garden?" and I said, "Chel, that's the beautiful thing about gardens. The people who appreciate what comes from a garden do not steal from the garden. It's this unwritten universal code..." Well, so much for my theory. After all, my Grandma told me that the best plants are those that have been nicked. But she's talking about nipping off a bud from a nursery or smuggling back some seeds and buds from international trips. And just recently I heard a story from a family member whose relative spent some time in a camp during a war and talked about profiling amongst the prisoners against other prisoners because the other prisoners would "steal your vegetables" when you weren't looking. Of course I feel bad for the gardeners over there and would feel just as bad for myself and my friends if people plundered our garden. I guess we just have to learn from these social experiments which are community gardens. Community gardens do have the word community in therefore, they can tell us a lot about our community. They stir interest among the community and lead people to meet each other. They bring out comraderie and pride amongst neighbors and community members in their neighborhood and surroundings. When outright theft occurs, they also reflect the dark side of a community. Maybe people are stealing because they don't have any sense of community--they are their own citizen, they don't need the community and could care less about community, therefore, they have no problem stealing from the community. Maybe these thieves are anarchists? Maybe they are starving. Who knows? I think back to a day when I was walking past a garden on the corner of Blue Island and Roosevelt and was peering into the garden, admiring it for what it was. All the while receiving a death stare from a woman who had recently left the garden. She stood across the street staring at me even as I began to walk home after peering into the garden from the outside of a locked chain-link fence. I never had the opportunity to ask the woman about her garden or to compliment the woman on her garden because it was not important for her to engage me on a level other than that of a steadfast sentinel. Urban gardening, I love it. It's about vegetables and it's about people.

  • In reply to ThePleasanthouse:

    LOL @ the convo between you and your wife. Thanks for introducing me to Growing Station via Twitter as it is the inspiration for the post. Considering that it is so well-hidden I'm surprised by all the veggie pilfering going on there. I mentioned on Twitter that a friend of mine has a studio loft across the street from it and I didn't notice the garden when looking out the window when I visited the studio.

    Community gardens do have the word community in therefore, they can tell us a lot about our community

    I was talking to a park district employee on a recent tour of community gardens and the subject of theft came up. She mentioned that perhaps the word "community" makes people think that the produce is there for the taking. Maybe we need another word or better education to help people unfamiliar with the concept understand that it isn't a grocery store where the veggies are free.

    It is disheartening to hear that someone in a garden missed a great opportunity to engage you about their garden. On the other hand, her experiences with strangers near or in the garden probably have left her jaded. What we need is a City wide garden party where gardeners can interact.

  • In reply to ThePleasanthouse:

    Lucky for me, the only thefts we ever had with our backyard garden were years ago at the hands (paws?) of a large groundhog and a particularly fat, surly opossum. Since then we've gotten dogs, who've turned the backyard into a killing field for small mammals. Other than a standard poodle developing a taste for tomatoes, no problem since.

  • In reply to JoetheCop:

    I wonder if being a cop is what's keeping people from raiding your garden. LOL.

  • Tēnā koutou

    I can understand the frustration where a garden is organised into allotments, which families are depending on. The signs introducing the family are a good idea. Pictures are good too (either photos or drawings by the children). Maybe also a phone number/ email address, and an invitation to the would-be illicit harvester to come around for a meal sometime, and talk about they can do their own gardening?

    I'm glad someone brought up class, because it's definitely the elephant in the discussion. The idea that people are harvesting veges - which they weren't involved in planting or tending - because of a lack of morality makes no sense. The article suggests it's a recent problem (escalating since 2008 perhaps?). Have people recently become less moral? Seriously?

    What's more likely is that because of the bigger picture (peak oil in 2006, financial crisis etc) people are starting to struggle to make ends meet. They don't know about gardening (or dumpstering), and they are embarrassed to admit they need help, so they resort to harvesting from community gardens at night, without permission.

    The best response is not fences and locks. A garden with a fence and a lock is by definition not a community garden, it's a private garden. A community garden as I understand it (and as the phrase is used here in Aotearoa) is primarily a place where people can reconnect to the practice of growing food; get tips on how to grow at home; and obtain seeds, seedlings and cuttings. It's part of a long-term strategy committed to making sure everyone has access to land, knowledge, and plants, with which to garden.

    This situation is a good illustration of why the ''survivalist' or 'lifeboat' response to peak oil is doomed to failure. As the age of cheap energy ends any person, household, or community - no matter how well-prepared - is only going to fare as well as their neighbours within walking distance. It's in our long-term self interest to help everyone become more capable of self-producing, and rebuild community support structures for when they can't.

    After all, if you're going to claim the moral high ground, is it really moral to build fences while your neighbours starve, instead of offering gardening workshops and helping new community gardens get established?

    He mihi aroha

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