My dear friend Amy McDaniel and I recently had the pleasure of cooking at our local community kitchen, for 50 local shut-ins. This was a first for me. And I was surprised to learn 50 shut-ins is the tip of the iceberg in our community. There are 300+ on the waiting list for this service.
We prepared the meal and delivered it to 13 of the 50. Some of the elderly were living in impoverished areas and others in the local retirement homes. I felt the desire to share with you my experience and the joy I felt when delivering to our elderly. I hope you too will feel the need to reach out to your local shut-ins.
With the prices of vegetables being as they are, planting a community garden is a great place to start in our efforts to help those in need of nature’s nourishment. And it is also a great way to get involved, make new friends, and better our communities. A ‘Community Garden’ needs the community to participate, even though it takes but only one seed to start.
“Community gardens date to the late 19th century, according to Betsy Johnson of the American Community Gardening Association, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that benefits such as community-building and crime reduction were recognized and touted as reasons to create gardens.”
In recent years, Ms. Johnson said, “Community gardens have been increasingly driven by governments and agencies.”
“Putting a shovel in the ground and planting plants is the easiest part of starting a community garden,” she continued. “But the garden won’t be sustainable if it’s not born of a desire in the community.”
Here are tips from Community Organizing Tools and Techniques for creating a community garden in your area.
Engaging City Hall
Keeping your Mayor and City Council, and most important, your District Council informed of gardening activities is a key best practice. It is vital to keep your City Council and District Council/Neighborhood Association up to date about the benefits of community gardening to gardeners as well as the larger community.
What Gardeners Can Do
Consider having one or more gardeners act as a ‘political liaison.’ Learn how to become politically aware, and learn the ins and outs of local government, so you have a political ‘tool box’ when the garden faces an issue, and know how to publicize the garden’s public contributions to the community.
Know who serves on your neighborhood District Council or Neighborhood
Association, and get to know the staff, board, and committee members and invite them to all activities.
Benefits of Community Gardens
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 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.
Please take this information using the guidelines and form your community garden committee. Create a plan by design, and go plant away!
And, as always… Be kind to others, Be-Cause it matters.
Over the years, stylist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Tracie Rampley has made a strong impact on her community by giving her time, energy, and resources to various worthy causes in the greater Atlanta region and beyond. Contact