Top 10 Reasons to Join a Community Garden
“Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.”
– Francis Bacon
“I’m a big believer in community gardens…both because of their beauty and for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across the nation and the world.”” –Michelle Obama
Spring is primetime for gardeners. Do you think you’d like to share your love of gardening with like-minded, green-thumbed folks in your neighborhood? Consider a community garden.
Defined by the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) as any piece of land gardened by a group of people, community gardens can be urban, suburban, or rural; they can grow flowers, vegetables or both; and they can be a single community plot, or many individual plots. They don’t need to be in “traditional” settings: community gardens can be set at a school or hospital; they can transform an abandoned parking lot or neglected boulevard median. They can be gardened strictly for pleasure or with a social mission (i.e. to generate produce for a local food pantry). The one thing all these gardens have in common: growing a sense of community is as or more important than growing plants.
Making Garden History
Community gardens originated in the early 1900s as a way for immigrants from rural farmlands to continue to grow their own produce and maintain community connections in their new urban settings. Then, during World Wars I and II, the U.S. Government asked its citizens to plant so-called “Victory Gardens” to support the war effort. Millions of people responded by planting these family and community-run gardens.
Today, the blossoming “green” movement and awareness of our planetary crisis has led to a major resurgence in community gardens. If the idea of this type of garden gets your green thumb tingling, tap into the ACGA’s national database at http://acga.localharvest.org/ to find a garden near you. If there’s no suitable garden in your immediate area, the ACGA site will walk you though the necessary steps to form your own community garden.
Great Gardens, Great Ideas
Once your garden is under way, there are countless creative ways to utilize its gifts while spreading a message about local food and sustainability. Brainstorm with fellow garden members for ideas that mesh well with your community. You can host seasonal cooking classes using produce from your garden, or partner with local schools to help them set up edible gardens and teach kids how to garden (let them get good and dirty when planting, tending and picking!). And use your garden for more than just gardening, as the setting for birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, barbecues, plant sales and more.
Top 10 Reasons to Join a Community Garden
(adapted from the American Community Gardening Association)
- Improves quality of life, especially gardeners who lack access to peaceful outdoor space.
- Jump starts community development. All those green-oriented people in one place can lead to important improvements in your neighborhood.
- Creates social bonds. You’re in your garden, and you’re talking gardening…you’ll make friends!
- Encourages self-reliance. Grow your own dinner; see how good it feels.
- Beautifies neighborhoods. What’s nicer to look at? An abandoned parking lot or a thriving garden?
- Produces nutritious food, especially if you grow organic produce. One EU study revealed that organic fruits and veggies have up to 40% more disease-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown produce.
- Saves money!
- Conserves resources, by reducing the amount of energy it takes to transport your food.
- Great exercise. According to the American Council For Fitness and Nutrition, you can burn 150 calories during 30-45 minute gardening session.
- Forges intergenerational and cross-cultural connections. There’s no stereotypical gardener; many community gardens attract a cross-section of the communities they serve, regardless of age, nationality and knowledge.
One last word on community gardens: if you do decide to join or create this type of communal gardening space, consider making it an organic one. Gardening organically (without the use of synthetic pesticides and insecticides) is one way to make your personal piece of the planet reflect the cleaner, greener world you want to live in. Happy planting!
This article was featured in the Spring 2009 Mambo Sprouts Messenger Newsletter.