What is a community garden?
A community garden is any piece of land gardened by a group of people, utilizing either individual or shared plots on private or public land. The land may produce fruit, vegetables, and/or ornamentals. Community gardens may be found in neighborhoods, schools, connected to institutions such as hospitals, and on residential housing grounds.
Types of Gardens
Did you know there are five distinct varieties in which community can participate.
Neighborhood gardens may be what people typically think of when they hear the name community garden. This type of garden is normally defined as a garden where a group of people come together to grow fruits, vegetables and ornamentals. They are identifiable as a parcel of private or public land where individual plots are rented by gardeners at a nominal annual fee.
Residential Gardens are typically shared among residents in apartment communities, assisted living, and affordable housing units. These gardens are mainly cared for by residents living on the grounds. There are an several residential gardens in Fort Worth, with more in the planning stages.
Institutional Gardens are defined as gardens attached to either public or private organizations. These gardens offer a number of beneficial services for residents, ranging from mental or physical rehabilitation and therapy to teaching a set of skills for job placement. There are three known institutional gardens in Fort Worth fitting this description.
Demonstration Gardens are used in educational and recreational settings. Oftentimes short seminars and presentations about gardening will be hosted at any of the five gardens located around the county. Other gardens will offer tours of their native species, such as Falkirk's Mediterranean Gardens.
School gardens are magical places where students learn many things about the world of plants. A garden can be an outdoor classroom for hands-on leaning about healthy food, habitats, and the wonder of nature.
Benefits of Community Gardening
- Community gardens increase a sense of community ownership and stewardship.
- Community gardens foster the development of a community identity and spirit.
- Community gardens bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds (age, race, culture, social class).
- Community gardens build community leaders.
- Community gardens offer a focal point for community organizing, and can lead to community-based efforts to deal with other social concerns.
- Community gardens provide opportunities to meet neighbors.
- Community gardens build block clubs (neighborhood associations).
- Community gardens increase eyes on the street.
- Community gardening is recognized by the many police departments as an effective community crime prevention strategy.
- Community gardens offer unique opportunities for new immigrants (who tend to be concentrated in low-income urban communities) to:
- Produce traditional crops otherwise unavailable locally,
- Take advantage of the experience of elders to produce a significant amount of food for the household,
- Provide inter-generational exposure to cultural traditions,
- Offer a cultural exchange with other gardeners,
- Learn about block clubs, neighborhood groups, and other community information.
- Community gardens offer neighborhoods an access point to non-English speaking communities.
- Community gardens allow people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side on common goals without speaking the same language.
Community gardens offer unique opportunities to teach youth about:
- Where food comes from
- Practical math skills
- Basic business principles
- The importance of community and stewardship
- Issues of environmental sustainability
- Job and life skills
- Community gardening is a healthy, inexpensive activity for youth that can bring them closer to nature, and allow them to interact with each other in a socially meaningful and physically productive way.
- Many community gardeners, especially those from immigrant communities, take advantage of food production in community gardens to provide a significant source of food and/or income.
- Community gardens allow families and individuals without land of their own the opportunity to produce food.
- Community gardens provide access to nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals.
- Urban agriculture is 3-5 times more productive per acre than traditional large-scale farming!
- Community gardens donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to food pantries and involve people in processes that provide food security and alleviate hunger.
- Studies have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets than do non-gardening families.
- Eating locally produced food reduces asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities.
- Exposure to green space reduces stress and increases a sense of wellness and belonging.
- Increasing the consumption of fresh local produce is one of the best ways to address childhood lead poisoning.
- The benefits of Horticulture Therapy can be and are used to great advantage in community gardens.
- Community gardens add beauty to the community and heighten people's awareness and appreciation for living things.
- Community gardens filter rainwater, helping to keep lakes, rivers, and groundwater clean.
- Community gardens restore oxygen to the air and help to reduce air pollution.
- Community gardens recycle huge volumes of tree trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, and other organic wastes back into the soil.
- Community gardens provide a place to retreat from the noise and commotion of urban environments.
- Community gardens provide much needed green space in lower-income neighborhoods which typically have access to less green space than do other parts of the community.
- Development and maintenance of garden space is less expensive than that of parkland.
- Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases.
- Community gardens have been shown to actually increase property values in the immediate vicinity where they are located.
We thank St. Paul Park and Recreation for posting a list of community gardening benefits on their website. The GICD version is mainly from that source with a couple of additions. Any list of benefits can never be complete. http://www.stpaul.gov/depts/parks/environment/gardens/index.html
The American Community Gardening Association's website is also a great resource for learning more about the many positive benefits of community gardening in the U.S. and Canada. http://communitygarden.org