Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Focus on Community Gardens

Part of the beauty of working alongside residents of Northern New Jersey to establish community gardens is witnessing the transformation of a space and the bond formed between different groups of people working together for a common goal.

Community gardens have been popping up across the USA as more people learn about their incredible significance to food security, community empowerment, urban revitalization and environmental stewardship. In Passaic County, New Jersey, nine new gardens have been established and seven gardens expanded or improved this past summer with the support of City Green’s Dig In! program.

Community Garden at Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women

What are some defining characteristics of community gardens?

 It’s important to keep in mind that community gardens come in all shapes and sizes. These can range from a collection of raised beds in vacant lots; garden plots in semi-rural areas; garden-to-food pantry projects between members of an organization or house of worship; and even a therapeutic garden for seniors or people with disabilities. Community gardens are typically located on land that is divided for individual, family or communal use. Gardeners often share the supplies, materials and tools. Most importantly, community gardens are typically organized and managed by the gardeners themselves – whether it is organized through a garden committee or some other core group of leaders.

West Milford Organic Community Garden
West Milford Organic Community Garden

Why do people come together to create a community garden and share in the labors of working the soil, sowing the seeds, maintaining the garden and harvesting vegetables?

Every community garden group has its own mission and vision, which guide the structure and function of the garden. Among the groups we have had the pleasure to work with through our Dig In! program, gardeners have identified an array of reasons to establish and maintain community gardens, including:

  • Providing access to fresh produce for community and surrounding neighborhood
  • Bringing community together
  • Enhancing quality of life by promoting healthy eating
  • Providing environmental education for children and teens
  • Engaging community members in educational programming about gardening
  • Developing deeper understanding of botany, health and nutrition
  •  Promoting sustainability, energy conservation and environmental awareness
  • Highlighting agricultural and cultural knowledge
  • Bringing pride to the community
  • Neighborhood beautification

Community Garden at Paterson Free Public Library Southside Branch

Educational Workshop at Paterson Library Southside Branch
In Northern New Jersey, community gardens are especially poignant in urban areas where residents have little or no access to fresh and healthy food, lack natural green spaces and have few safe areas to enjoy outdoor recreation.

Here at City Green, we believe in the power of on-the-ground community cohesion to revitalize abandoned and forgotten spaces and turn these into something beautiful and usable.

Over the next few months, we will be highlighting a couple of stories about the garden groups we partner with in Passaic County, NJ. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, if you are interested in further exploring the benefits of community gardens, please visit the following links:

American Community Gardening Association - ACGA

American Journal of Public Health

Community Gardens: Lessons Learned from California Healthy Cities and Communities

Gardening Matters

North Carolina State University

-page provides link to multiple journal articles researching community gardens

Sustainable West Milford

WhyHunger Food Security Learning Center

by Claudia Urdanivia


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