“Community” is a wonderful word, especially when used in the context of a garden. A community garden provides a healthy place to play, to share and care, and to nurture commitment and interaction. It flourishes into a plot of earth where success and pride have no age limit.
This idea of a shared garden takes many forms. On one hand, you find an urban farm with several acres of vegetables and fruit under cultivation, operated by a not-for-profit entity. They may offer a farm stand to sell their harvest, and run numerous educational programs for local school children. On the flip side, the garden may simply be a vacant lot tended by a neighborhood, church, or civic group. They may cultivate edible crops, or produce flowers to beautify the area. The size of the garden, and what is grown, becomes irrelevant when folks come together to dig in the dirt.
Look at an established community garden and discover that growth is so much more than vegetables and flowers:
- From an economic aspect, a vacant lot transformed into an urban oasis will encourage surrounding property values to increase. Land once considered a detriment now becomes a literal breath of fresh air.
- When people take pride in their surrounding, such as a community garden, research indicates a reduction in crime.
- The environmental impact from a community garden is measurable. Participants remove hazardous debris, and harmful storm water run-off diminishes. In a once barren area, beneficial insects and birds take up residence, and healthy plants do their part to improve air quality. In a hot locale, the cultivated piece of earth becomes a respite from pavement and concrete and offers a natural cooling-off point.
While life’s daily routines have a way of causing isolation, a community garden spreads its roots throughout neighborhoods. The garden’s natural magnetism lures sharers, nurturers and mentors; it becomes a gathering place for young and old, where vegetables, flowers, art, and energy, fill an unused space. It can be a weekend gathering point where big jobs take many hands. But it also serves as an end-of-the-day stop to gather a few dinner goodies, and chat with a fellow gardener. It combats loneliness and promotes smiles and kind words.
- A neighborhood garden offers common ground for cultural differences. More and more, our cities become home to a diverse community. Working and sharing the soil together provides understanding, education, and appreciation. A garden does not harbor anger or social bias.
- Gardeners inherently love to share. When you’re digging and planting with friends and neighbors, extra seeds become a treasured gift, and plants migrate from one plot to another as coveted items.
The Benefits of Sharing
Most community gardens focus primarily on food production. Local, fresh, and healthy are the mantra, as many operations insist on organic practices. Harvest a tomato still warm from the sun and eat it right then, and there. Natural fertilizers and soil amendments promise this extraordinary pleasure can be yours. Most children have no idea where their food originates. With a neighborhood garden in place, they dig and plant side-by-side with adults, and learn the rewards of dining on their harvest. They grow in self-esteem, healthy eating habits, and enjoy time away from technology.
A bumper zucchini crop means ‘care packages’ for non-gardening neighbors, and a kaleidoscopic zinnia bouquet left on a door step brightens many a day for those who can not participate. A new recipe using a bumper tomato harvest makes the rounds among neighbors and suddenly the area has grown into tightly knit community. This idea of a garden sounds like a simplistic cure for everything that ails us. While it doesn’t produce a magic potion to solve major world issues, it does offer a true, living respite to enjoy every day – but only if you start to dig it.