With the onset of supermarkets in the past few decades, increasing numbers of Americans have become less and less familiar with growing at least a portion of their own food supply. Realizing the dangers and drawbacks to eating processed, mass produced, and mono-cultured foods has led some to start looking elsewhere. Farmers markets, co-ops, and other local and organic food providers are a great antidote for these problems. You can find such local and organic food providers on the green directory. Going a step further and getting some hands-on experience is worth the effort. Community gardens provide such an experience and are becoming increasingly popular as means of providing nutritious, fresh food for urban, suburban and rural families alike.
Community gardens are beneficial for many reasons. Economically, many crops can often be cultivated and harvested for less money than they would cost to by in a store. If there is enough, you could even sell the surplus at a local farmer’s market. Socially, the sense and strength of community is increased as the individual members cooperate on the garden work. Environmentally, much less energy is consumed and emissions produced because the food does not have to be transported hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. Also, the environment benefits from the use of minimal or even no pesticides or other environmental pollutants. Educationally, children and adults gain valuable life experiences through the practice of sowing seeds, maintaining the garden and harvesting crops. Last but not least are the health benefits associated with eating food from community gardens. This food is often more fresh, more nutrient-rich and less laden with preservatives and other potentially toxic chemicals and pesticides.
Where to Start
Talk with your neighbors to gauge community wide interest in starting a community garden. If it seems like there is enough support for the idea, start planning basic details like location, size, types of crops, work responsibilities, produce and, if applicable, profit sharing. Abandoned and underutilized plots are good places to consider. Community gardens can transform these eyesores into useful and valuable land. It’s always a good idea to have the soil tested before you begin to insure it is safe for planting and eating edible crops.
Who to Call?
Consult with a local green pro for help where needed. The green landscaping section of the green directory is a great place to find green professionals who can help in your area. You can also ask a green pro any specific questions you may have on the green forum and find additional educational green living resources on sustainable food sources and other topics in the Resources section of the Green Pro Directory website.