Community gardens have long been a great solution for apartment and urban dwellers who lack their own outdoor space, but many have frustratingly long waiting lists. At some community gardens in San Francisco, for example, it can take two or three years to get a plot. So would-be gardeners have come up with a bartering system known as "yard sharing" in which people who have space to spare connect with those looking for a place to plant, often in exchange for a share of the harvest or help with the water bill.
One resource for people just getting started, Hyperlocavore.com, encourages social networking and maintains a searchable database of more than 250 yard-sharing groups throughout the country. Members can create profiles and join groups (or start their own), set up seed and tool exchanges, and trade tips with other horticulturists.
The practice isn't just about swapping produce for space and the chance to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, says Joshua Patterson, director of Yardsharing.org, which he describes as "Craigslist for garden space" in the Portland, Ore., area. It's also a way to put down those other roots in or near your neighborhood. "You get food and a great garden, but you also create a wonderful community," he says. The site features classifieds for members to find or advertise yard space, with maps pinpointing available shares so people can find plots within walking distance.
If gardening isn't your forte (or if you'd like to expand), get ready for the next big thing in food bartering: cow, chicken, goat, and lamb shares. You rent farm space and care for your animals, then split the meat, milk, and eggs.