By Alan Miles
It’s the time of year that you’re thinking about planting your garden, dreaming of the first sweet sugar snap peas and plump tomatoes. Maybe you have the space for a sprawling garden, but, if not, growing your own food isn’t out of reach.
Community gardens offer individuals without their own gardening space the opportunity to garden. They are also improving the quality of life in neighborhoods across the U.S. and around the world — bringing people together to beautify their neighborhoods, protect resources, grow affordable and nutritious food, and provide a positive social environment.
1) What are community gardens?
Community gardens are plots of land, usually located in a city, that are gardened collectively by a group of people. Usually vegetables and fruits are grown for the gardeners and the larger community, though the gardens often include flowerbeds, and some are strictly ornamental. In some cases, gardeners tend their own individual plots, while in others, the entire space is cared for as a group project.
2) Why create community gardens?
Community gardens are a boost to any neighborhood, especially those in low-income urban areas. They offer opportunities to improve health, often offering access to wholesome food where it is otherwise difficult to obtain and unaffordable. They also can help preserve resources where land is being misused and neglected.
Also, these gardens offer real social opportunities — places where neighbors can interact and work together for a common good. For example, Victoria Gutierrez, who was awarded a continuing scholarship from the Simply Organic 1% Fund and Frontier Foundation for the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), helped reclaim a neglected plot of land in East Oakland for a community garden. She described community gardens as “places of convergence where people know one another and look out for one another” and that “help to decrease ugliness and violence.”
Other health, ecological and social benefits of community gardens include: