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Friday, July 22, 2011

Local Wisdom - Eugene's Potato Leaf Project

Here is a re-posting of an article which appeared in the Eugene Weekly about a nearby project that is very much in the spirit of the Sharing Gardens - using autumn leaf "waste" to grow food to share amongst volunteers and those in need.

Potatoes often volunteer to grow in your compost pile.
The Potato Leaf Project, a clever way to use waste leaves and grow food at the same time, is a great example of a home-grown idea gone viral. The idea, which was first featured in a local story in the Eugene Weekly, is now making its way around the world.

The Potato Leaf Project came about by a group of participants in one of the "Sustainable Eugene" meetings held at the University Longhouse in November 2010.  The idea was initially suggested by David Hazen, creator of The City of Peace, as a way to help those in need of jobs, income and food.  

The initial goals of the project were to:
  1. Keep the leaves in neighborhoods by finding a place to use them in a planting project.
  2. Bring individuals in communities together in a food sharing mode, similar to
    the Neighborhood Gardens which are developing around town. (see
    Common Ground Garden and the Edgewood Garden)
  3. Use potatoes because they are so easy to grow.
  4. Encourage
    the potential for business possibilities for the low-income and
    jobless.  For example, starting a Mission Garden where homeless
    community members could tend to the growing.  Additionally, the potatoes
    could be sold to local stores or simply prepared in storable food
    products and then sold.  They could also be donated to
    Food for Lane County.
Leaves piled in a Eugene alley for potato planting.
    In November, leaves were ordered from the City of Eugene's Leaf Collection Program.
 When they were delivered, they were piled up in a neighborhood easement, which is the back alley of a street owned by the neighbors.  The leaves were laid in a 100 foot long row about 2 feet high to sit and begin to decompose. In the Spring, they were planted with seed potatoes (using many varieties for testing).  As the spuds grew out of the pile, they were covered with more leaves to form mounds, which
covered the new green growth under the leaves to promote more tuber growth.  In August or September the potatoes will be harvested by the neighbors for use.   

As of today, the testing goes on around the world. People in Guam, France, Spain, Texas, Arizona and Eugene have been inspired by this process and are building their own potato patches.  It is an ongoing event and any other suggestions and participation are welcomed.

Please address any questions to Ginny at ginny@efn.org.

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