The urban community garden dates back to the 1890s, when the first ones appeared in Detroit, Michigan. During World War I and World War II, the government promoted gardens as a great way to supplement the food supply. Today, community gardens have many benefits in addition to providing a means of fresh produce for the local neighborhood.
A Sense of Community
Community gardens are a great way to get neighbors to work together toward a common goal. Not only will neighbors participate and benefit from the garden, but it is an opportunity to involve local businesses and organizations. These gardens can help a community develop an identity and common spirit and bring together people of different ages, races, and cultures.
Those who participated in community gardens consumed about 5.7 times more fruits and vegetables than those who did not. One reason may be that fresh produce can be expensive in the grocery store. By adding community gardens, it allows the local community to benefit from easy and inexpensive access to fresh and pesticide free foods.
Another benefit of starting a community garden is that the gardeners will be mentally stimulated. Learning to grow plants is a life skill that these gardeners can use for the rest of their lives. In addition, organic gardening requires a set of knowledge that further enhances gardening. Community education in regards to gardening can also include information about recycling through composting and “waste minimization”.
Community gardens can add benefit to the local environment in a number of ways. They can beautiful the area by utilizing empty, unkempt lots or rooftop space. They improve soil quality and air quality in the area, help with the utilization of water, and reduce the time between when foods are harvested and reach the table, meaning that more nutrients are intact for those utilizing the garden.
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Improve Food Choices for Poverty Stricken Neighborhoods
Those in high poverty areas may not even have access to a local grocery store from which they can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. 23.5 million people do not have a supermarket within a mile of their home, or within walking distance. Adding a community garden solves part of this problem by providing fresh fruits and vegetables right in the proverbial backyard of these communities.
Reduce Crime Rates
Community gardens work in a couple of ways to reduce crime rates. First, they better utilize vacant land where crimes might occur. Vacant areas can lower property value. For example, people might dump litter on an empty lot or empty unhealthy chemicals there. In New Kinsington, Philadelphia, property values went up 30% after vacant lots were better utilized and improved.
Teaching urban communities how to grow a garden in the city through use of vacant lots, raised beds, or containers can also help improve the income of those individuals. They can then take excess produce and resell it at local farmer’s markets, producing a stream of revenue they didn’t have before while also benefiting the local community.
Makes Organic Food Affordable
The cost of purchasing organic food at a grocery store can be out of the budget of many people. However, it is fairly simple to grow food without the use of chemicals in raised bed gardens. This allows more people to have access to organic food and thus to become even healthier. In addition, the overall food budget for families is reduced.
A community garden gives everyone in an area a sense of purpose and fellowship. Because everyone is using the common space and working toward a common goal, they get to know their neighbors better than they otherwise might. There are many benefits to a community garden, but few drawbacks.