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Sustainable HOAs: Reconnecting Food and Community

Following the overview of sustainability and its implications for HOAs from my first post in this series, I’ll now look at one important component of the Sustainability Plan that I’m currently developing in collaboration with Local Innovations and CAP Management.

Over the last 100 years, an astonishing array of technological developments has taken place in agriculture.  Never was this more evident than during the “green revolution” of the middle-20th century.  The development of High-Yielding Varieties (HYVs), inorganic pesticides and herbicides, and mechanized farming were just some of the breakthroughs during this time. The result is that land is more productive than it has ever been before, and starvation in the Western world has been all but wiped out.

While we all undoubtedly benefit from the advances of the Green Revolution, many have lamented society’s disconnection from the food growing process. Most people in the U.S. have never farmed, and much of the produce we buy was often grown on a different continent.  The yearly seasons, too, have come to have little impact on the way that we eat.  One can easily buy tomatoes or berries, produce typically associated with summer, in the middle of December.  Additionally, there is growing concern that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose a threat to the environment and to human health. Given these concerns, it is no wonder that community gardens and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are growing in popularity.

Community Gardens

Many cities around the country have an urban gardening program where community residents can come together and experience growing their own produce side-by-side with their neighbors.  Since most HOAs have common areas, I began to wonder if some of that land could be used for the same purpose.  Community gardens in an HOA would serve the dual purpose of growing nutritional, seasonal food while providing an activity and a place for residents to become more acquainted with their neighbors.  In essence, having a community garden would be a major step towards fostering a healthy community – literally.  Once municipal zoning and ordinances are reviewed and an HOA amends their governing documents to allow for using a portion of common area, a community garden could easily become a reality.

Community Supported Agriculture

Another method to bring healthy produce into an HOA is by utilizing local CSAs.  Under this plan, residents  pay for a portion of the harvest from a particular farm or group of farms.  Once a week fruit,vegetables, honey, eggs, cheese, milk, and even bread are dropped off at a central location that serves as a distribution point for the HOA.  This can be a volunteer’s home or a business.  Along with bringing fresh, organic food to HOA residents, CSAs help foster a symbiotic relationship between urban or suburban homeowners and the surrounding farming community.  It’s a little like your HOA having it’s own farmers market.

CAP Management is looking for HOAs who want to include a community garden or CSA as part of their long-term Sustainability Plan.  For more information, contact