South Charlotte

Growing things to honor the Earth

A church survey a few years ago asked Dhijana Scott-Harmony to list three things she was doing to save the planet.

Three lines weren't enough space. She scribbled probably 100 ways.

She and husband Borys Scott-Harmony eat local food, conserve and recycle, and avoid littering and polluting.

Urban homesteading is one name for the lifestyle that includes raising your own food in tight city spaces and on suburban lots while also cutting waste.

Rising food costs amid high unemployment and heavy chemical use by corporate food systems are among the reasons Dhijana Scott-Harmony says people are drawn to the idea of becoming more self-sufficient at home.

Maybe two people can't change the whole world. The Scott-Harmonys found they can entirely transform one backyard for the sake of doing less harm to the Earth.

On a half-acre in south Charlotte's Starmount neighborhood, the couple has replaced the lawn with organic fruits and vegetables. They harvest $150-$200 worth of produce every week, year-round.

The food they don't eat gets traded for meat or other foods.

They also sell some of their harvests at the Harmony Gardens booth at Atherton Market on South Boulevard.

They collect eggs most days from the 10 hens they keep. They catch rainwater in containers as it falls from their rooftops and use it to quench their thirsty landscape.

Fences and garden beds are made with found or recycled materials.

Neighbors have told them the throwaways and do-it-yourself building projects make their certified wildlife habitat look more like a junkyard, but the Scott-Harmonys are sticking with their rain barrels.

"My mission is to get as many people as possible growing food," Dhijana said. "Instead of mowing a lawn, you can produce food for your family and food for others."

Henry Owen helps manage 15 local gardens for Friendship Farms and Gardens. Those gardens help put fresh food on the plates of the area's meals-on-wheels program, called Friendship Trays.

Owen and his colleagues harvested more than 3,800 pounds of produce from their gardens in July.

By comparison, Owen considers the two small beds in his backyard, in east Charlotte's Oakhurst neighborhood, merely a hobby. It's too shady there to do large-scale production.

The nine hens that he's keeping are also a not-for-profit enterprise.

"I have intentionally not run accounting numbers on the chickens," Owen said. "I am going to do this whether or not I'm making money."

Still, these are hobbies that suit Owen's serious side. He believes the food he harvests at home is more nutritious than what's in many grocery stores, which often sell goods trucked in from hundreds of miles away.

Raw-food scraps from Owen's kitchen end up in the compost heap, or he feeds them to the earthworms in a bin in a storage shed. That cuts waste that goes to a landfill.

The hens eat any cooked food that's left after meals. The hens also take care of insects in the yard, including fire ants. So Owen is not using pesticides for that problem.

And like many others around the country, Owen is doing something heartfelt for his wife Emily and his 8-month-old son, Jack Henry.

"I want to have the best food for my family," he said. "I want to share this with my son."