Posted on 24 June 2010 by

Yard-Sharing the 21st Century Version of Sharecropping

yard-shareBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

As an avid gardener I cannot imagine not having some land, and when I say some land I am talking about 1/5 acre in my case.

My yard is divided up into space for my shed, 3 cars, landscaping in the front, my blueberry bed, Chestnut trees, and my herb and vegetable garden.

All my plants fit snugly on my land but what are people to do who want to garden but have no land.

Some container garden, some farm on walls, and some roof garden but I can tell you that nothing beats farming on the land.

As our population grows land becomes scarcer, the gardening movement grows and land is placed in a multi-use tug of war. From this agricultural paradox came the idea of yard-sharing. This concept was born from our two modern day obsessions, that is social networking and safe food with a little Freecycle and a dating website thrown in.

But how does this work? First, a landowner decides how much land he/she wants farmed and places that information on a website dedicated to yard-sharing. Then a gardener finds landowner in their neighborhood on the website and strikes a deal. An agreement is set up between the landowner and the gardener. It is as simple or complicated, as these individuals desire to make it. It really has become the modern day version of sharecropping.

But before we urban dwellers start farming out land we do not want to take care of there are some things to keep in mind. First you need to always remember that you are dealing with 2 unpredictable parties these are humans and nature. The best made plans can fall apart. Two, novice gardeners may not know the time and commitment needed for a successful garden.

Three, it can build a community or tear it apart so plan and write down everything. Give everyone involved a copy of rules and regulations. Four make it fun and celebrate the seasons. Have a planning party, a planting party, and a harvesting/preserving party. Involve all ages in the garden experience. These experiences will help carry the “farming” knowledge to the next generation and who knows maybe to the moon. But most of all keep in mind that this is not a permanent arrangement much like dating. If it does not work out you do not have to renew the relationship.

If you are an urban dweller who would like to try this modern day version of sharecropping or an individual without land look at the following web sites,,, and If these web sites do not cover your area start your own web site or bulletin board at your local library or Extension office.

And if that is not your cup of tea try talking to your neighbors that is what I did and struck up a simple deal. I will grow the tomatoes, and peppers in my yard since it is sunnier and my neighbor grows pumpkins, squash, and green beans. We share the outcome of both our gardens and cut our food cost all at the same time. We have built a lasting relationship that grows each year with our gardens and while this is a unique concept of sharecropping it works for us.

3 Responses to “Yard-Sharing the 21st Century Version of Sharecropping”

  1. amy pennington Says:

    We have a site in Seattle that was launched in March of 2009 for yard sharing. Being an apartment dweller (and on the long wait list for a community plot) I thought “I would LOVE to get my hands in some dirt,” and from there was built.

    We are launching out to other cities in July – Louisville, Atlanta, Boise, Whatcom County WA and more. I’m happy to launch in any city, really! Drop us a line if you’re interested.

  2. meemsnyc Says:

    We have 1/3 of an acre, and built a vegetable garden this year. We are so addicted to gardening that next year we are thinking of doing raised beds! It’s so rewarding and fun!

  3. Liz McLellan Says:

    Hey Thanks for mentioning Just a minor correction – anyone from anywhere can start a “Seeking Yard sharing Partners” space on the site. We will work to help you get going no matter where you are!

    Take care!


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