To say community gardening is a trend would be an understatement. All over the U.S., community and urban gardening is taking off as people realize the benefits of eating locally grown food. The cost-effectiveness doesn’t hurt either.
Five awesome things about community gardens:
- Community gardens provide food not only to local farmers’ markets and restaurants, but also to local food pantries and food service organizations.
- Community gardens teach children AND adults how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Last year, I wrote a story for Glenview (IL) Patch about how local citizens and businesses were working to be more “green.” In my story, I featured The Organic Pantry Project (TOPP). Below is an excerpt that talks about what they do:
“The Organic Pantry Project (TOPP)…works to support and create community gardens. The first garden supported by TOPP in Glenview was at Pleasant Ridge school. For years, students had been gardening at the school under the guidance of teacher Dave Jones, who used his own money to buy supplies. Last year, students donated more than 350 pounds of organic produce to local food pantries.
Jen Roberts and Laura Heyser, founders of TOPP, said they wanted to do more to help Jones and his students.
‘We wanted to create something to raise funds for him to support and continue the garden,’ Heyser said. ‘We wanted to make sure we’re supporting our community in a way to teach our kids something healthy and to get involved in something that matters.’
TOPP also helped plant a garden at Glenview Community Church. With the help of the congregation, an Eagle Scout project and donations from grocer Whole Foods and others, the church’s garden came together in about a month, Heyser said.
Since June, TOPP has donated more than 324 pounds of organic produce to the Northfield Township Food Pantry to help those in need.”
TOPP is a great organization – but I’m learning in my work that there are other wonderful organizations all over the country that are working to provide local food for the hungry and teach nutrition and gardening to new (or old) generations.
3. Community gardens often make use of space that would otherwise to go waste.
A professor from Trinity Lutheran College in Washington state saw some unutilized space from his office window every day: the top of a parking garage that was never filled to capacity. So he, along with local volunteers, created a rooftop garden. The garden features plants of all kinds, and many vegetables grown go to the college’s student meal plan and local food banks. (To read more about the garden, click here.)
The Chicago Honey Co-Op has its apiary in an abandoned parking lot in an old industrial area of the city. (It also fits in with awesome thing number 4 below – the Honey Co-Op started as a job training program.)
4. Community gardens empower local populations with job training opportunities.
Growing Power’s Chicago Lights Urban Farm, an urban farming and community garden project launched in Chicago in 2003, offers numerous youth programs that educate young people. Youth participate in the daily process of running an urban farm by keeping records, working at local farmers’ markets, planting, leading information sessions, and everything in between.
Gateway Greening in St. Louis offers a 10-week intensive on-the-job training in horticulture for veterans.
5. Community gardens educate their communities about nutrition and food justice.
Milwaukee Urban Gardens developed a curriculum to teach students about the connections between cultures, food systems and sustainability.
Urban Harvest in Houston has education programs on all levels that work with children and adults to not only learn how to garden, but also to learn the value of healthy food.
Community gardens are doing great things all over the country. To check out one in your area, visit the American Community Gardening Association’s website.