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Community Garden Benefits, Types, History, Facts

Introduction to Community gardening:

A community garden is a place where the people come together to grow food, foster good health, green urban environments, support lifelong learning & cultivate vibrant communities. Community gardens are plots of land, usually in urban areas, that are rented by individuals or groups for private gardens or are for the advantage of the people caring for the garden.

A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a collection of people. Community gardens utilize either individual or shared plots on private or public land while producing fruit, vegetables, and plants grown for their attractive appearance.

History of Community Gardening:

Today’s Community gardens are the main places in cities across the United States. They can help to revitalize neighborhoods affected by urban decline, make a sense of community, grow healthy food, teach environmental education, and create a sense of place. But it is not the first time Americans have turned into community gardens to redesign city life. The community gardens in cities today have evolved from a long history. Since the 1890s, Americans have turned to the garden to confront social problems such as economic recession, war, urban decline, & environmental injustice.

History of Community Gardens.
History of Community Gardens.

Benefits of Community Gardening:

Community gardens are a component of the sharing economy. They create it possible for many people to enjoy a resource, in this case, land for gardening that they couldn’t afford on their own. However, it’s not just the gardeners themselves who gain from community gardens the advantages extend to the rest of the neighborhood and even to society as a whole.

Community gardens offer several benefits, from providing a place for those who otherwise would not have space or opportunity to grow food to helping city people reconnect with nature.

Gardening in communities encourages fitness, sharing of healthy seasonal fresh vegetables and fruit, increased social interaction and sense of community belonging, and increased gardening knowledge & expertise.

Benefits of community gardens:

Beautifying Cities: Many community gardens sit on what were once empty lots filled with rubbish. When urban gardeners take over, they clear away the debris and restore it with lush greenery. Community gardening turns urban eyesores into vibrant green space, which improves the excellence of life for everyone in the neighborhood, not just the people who really tend the garden. There’s even some evidence that having a community garden increases property standards in the surrounding area.

Fresh Produce: Various urban neighborhoods are “food deserts” places where it’s nearly impossible to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Community gardens give fresh, nutritious produce for many families who couldn’t otherwise afford it, improving their diet and their overall health. They relieve hunger by donating their excess produce to food pantries.

Healthy Lifestyles: Urban gardening provides city dwellers a chance to enjoy fresh air and healthy outdoor exercise. They provide a peaceful retreat from the noise and bustle of an urban neighborhood, easing stress for residents.

Read: Japanese Garden Design, Elements, Plants, History, Facts.

Types of Community gardens:

Neighborhood gardens:

Neighborhood gardens may be what people normally think of when they hear the name community garden. This type of garden is generally defined as a garden where a group of people comes together to grow fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. They are particular as a parcel of private or public land where individual plots are rented by gardeners at a nominal annual fee. Currently, Marin County has eight such gardens fitting this explanation.

Residential Gardens:

Residential gardens are normally shared among residents in apartment communities, assisted living, and affordable housing units. These gardens are mostly cared for by residents living on the grounds. There are an estimated 7 residential gardens in Marin, with more in the planning stages.

Institutional Gardens:

Institutional gardens are clear as gardens attached to either public or private organizations. These gardens present 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 identified institutional gardens in Marin fitting this description.

Demonstration gardens:

Demonstration gardens are used in educational & recreational settings. Oftentimes short seminars and presentations about gardening will be hosted at any of the 5 gardens located around the county. Other gardens will suggest tours of their native species, such as Falkirk’s Mediterranean Gardens.

Finding or Starting a Community Garden:

How To Start A Community Garden.
How To Start A Community Garden.

The best method to find a community garden in your area is through the website of the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA), an organization that promotes community gardening throughout the United States & Canada.

If there is no community garden in your area, the ACGA present information on how to start your own. Here’s a fundamental outline of the steps you need to follow to put together a community garden in your neighborhood.

  1. Talk to Your Neighbors:

Talk to people in your neighborhood to find out whether they are fascinated in a community garden. Include both people and local organizations known as community groups, gardening societies, and homeowners’ and tenants’ associations in the conversation.

Discuss what type of garden would best serve the needs of your community. For instance, talk about what would be most useful to produce in the garden like vegetables, flowers, or both. Discuss whether people would choose a single space that everyone manages together or separate plots for individual people to tend. Also, find out whether people would choose to make the garden organic.

  1. Identify Resources:

Figure out what resources your town has that could help you with your community garden system. Possible resources will include:

  • Local municipal planners, who can help you find probable sites for your garden
  • Gardening clubs and societies, as well as individuals with experience in gardening & landscaping
  • Your state’s Master Gardener plan, if there is one, which can help you deal with gardening challenges
  1. Find a Site/Location:

This is the main crucial step in planning a community garden. Look around your neighborhood for a lot that has the below traits:

  • Is not being used for everything else.
  • Gets plenty of sunshine at least 6 hours a day, if you are planning to grow vegetables.
  • Is moderately flat.
  • Has a source of water obtainable. If you are not sure, contact your local water service to ask whether the property has a water meter.
  • Does not have any large, heavy pieces of debris that would be difficult to remove.
  • Is close to you & the other neighbors who want to take part in the community garden ideally within walking distance.
  1. Plan Your Garden:

Decide what you want your community garden to contain. Measure the site and draw out a simple scale map that you can use to plan out the location of different components, such as garden beds & paths. Then meet with your garden collection to discuss how you want to lay out your garden.

Location:

Community gardens may be created in neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and residential housing grounds. The location of a community garden is a critical factor in how often the community garden is used & who visits it. Exposure to a community garden is more likely for an individual if they are able to walk or drive to the location, as opposed to public transportation. The length of travel time is a factor. Those who live within a fifteen minute or less travel distance are more likely to visit a community garden as compared to those with longer travel time. Such statistics should be taken into consideration when decides a location for a community garden for a target population.

Read: Agriculture Tourism In India, Benefits of Agri Tourism.

Things to know about Community gardening:

Things To Know About Community Garden.
Things To Know About Community Garden.
  1. They’re good for us and our communities:

Community gardens are about more than just rising food. By increasing the number of local community gardeners and obtainable garden space, families and individuals are able to grow fresh, healthy produce for very little money, green previously underused areas, increase local food security, get to know and interact with their neighbors, & work together to enhance the communities where they live.

  1. It takes a lot of people to run them:

The success and sustainability of community gardens rely on community support & on people getting involved. Locally, over 700 people work hard to maintain, organize & coordinate these gardens. This includes neighbors, co-workers, students, families, & teachers. You don’t have to have a green thumb to be an element of a community garden. Hundreds of citizens get occupied by providing land, donating tools, seeds, and plants, by building sheds, composters, and water systems, by leading workshops, throwing garden parties & in countless other ways.

  1. Allotment plots:

Although each community garden is organized a bit differently, they are predominantly recognized as allotment plots. Allotment plots are based on the British system of allotment gardening, which basically means a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or raising of food plants.

The majority of community garden plots belong to families or individuals who rent the space and buy the seeds & plants, as well as water, maintain and take care of the plots.

  1. They produce a lot of food:

Local community gardens are generating a lot of food. As a result, they give a crucial opportunity to increase local food security. Since the majority of plots in community gardens or allotments, mainly community gardeners are growing food for themselves or their families.

Similarly, community gardens agree to an individual’s greater control over the quality and type of food they consume. They also increase the consumption of healthy, fresh foods, especially fruits & vegetables.

  1. They build up the communities around them:

Community gardens give space for people to work together to create beautiful, productive spaces. Local gardeners report that by receiving involved in community gardens, they spend more time outdoors, interact more with neighbors, meet new friends, and experience improvements in their mental & physical health.

Many community reports decreased crime rates, as well as increased pride and community ownership over these spaces. Research has also shown that the creation of community gardens can lead to a rise in neighborhood property values.

Community gardens, commonly include:

  • The individual garden plots
  • The paths between beds
  • The compost bins
  • A shed or other structure to store up tools
  • The pots to hook up hoses for watering
  • A common area for gathering, which could include benches or picnic tables & a source of shade
  • A fence around the outside to protect your garden from vandalism & theft

Cultivating community:

Community gardens are places where individuals work side by side neighborhood children, business people, artists, single parents & newcomers to this country everyone all at once. They share stories and shovels, laughter and water, & slowly they build relationships that extend beyond the garden and into our larger community. On any given day, the gardeners toiling side by side in any of Toronto’s hundred community gardens may include Vietnamese, Russians, Eritreans, Tamils, Ukrainians, Filipinos, Italians, Cambodians, Iranians, Greeks, Jamaicans, Somalis, Czechs, East Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, West Indian and many more. Some Canadian born participants speak English, some French and others Inuktitut. Somehow, from this huge mix of languages & cultures, we are able to find enough in common through our love of gardening to create communities.

The mix of gardeners means several are meeting some foods for the first time. Callaloo, mustard greens, bok choy, edo, water grass, bitter melon, fava beans, Lebanese cucumbers & Bengali beans are unfamiliar to most North American-born participants. In turn, newcomers are getting acquainted with Swiss chard, strawberries, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi & sunflowers. New friendships bloom as gardeners swap tips and ideas, share labor, or stop to chat & rest in the shade. A midsummer potluck dinner features dishes the gardeners prepared from their own produce. There will be workshops to help them preserve what they & their fellow gardeners have grown, through pickling, freezing, and canning. Many say they share the harvest with friends and family & that on average; seven people eat from each plot. Here’s what some gardeners have to say about it all “Gardening is good for body & soul.” “My children will now eat vegetables because they grew them themselves.” “Gardening helps save money for something else.” ”I just love spending time in the garden-it gives something to look forward to every day.”  “The garden plot helped my family relax & have fun together.” “Before we didn’t know any of them & now we’re friends, almost like family.”

Time commitment:

As an organizer, you can expect to spend about twenty to thirty hours a month for six to eight months to get a garden going, says Bill Maynard, vice president of ACGA. And you’ll probably need at least 2 other people working almost as much time as you to look for grants and donations. Community gardens give a healthy lifestyle by:

  • Providing fresh, safe, affordable herbs, fruits & vegetables
  • Helping to relieve stress & an increased sense of wellness
  • Getting people active, which pick up overall physical health
  • Providing social opportunities that build a sense of community & belonging
  • Giving people an opportunity to learn and share knowledge about gardening, nature, & cooking

Some nutrition facts:

Community gardeners consumed a greater number of fruits & vegetables compared to national averages of 7.5 servings per day in the fall, & 6.3 servings in the spring. Of the gardeners surveyed, 70-80% consumed at least five servings of fruit & vegetables daily.

In addition, 74% of gardeners preserved create from the garden (through freezing, canning, pickling, & drying) and 95% shared produce with neighbors, emergency food service providers, & others.

Those involved with community gardens are more likely to eat & continue in the off-season to eat more fruits and vegetables, making them more likely to meet “five to ten A-Day” goals. Of those families and individuals who participated in garden projects, 89% ate more fresh vegetables than usual, 96% planned to eat more fresh vegetables all year round, and 79% learned a new way to arrange fresh vegetables.

Gardening reduces stress:

These days stress relief is a very high priority for us all. Never before have humans had to cope with such as wide variety & type of stressful situations. While many people seek artificial ways of relieving stress, quietly tending your garden can be a real stress-buster, helping relieve feelings of anxiety & giving you a break from the general rush of life. Believe it or not, simply looking at a plant can reduce stress, fear, and anger, and lower blood pressure & muscle tension. Studies have found that prison inmates in cells with windows overlooking greenery need less medical care & report fewer symptoms of stress, such as headaches. Hospital patients whose rooms have windows that overlook trees & other plants spend less time in the hospital than those who overlook parking lots. Other researchers have documented that people exposed urban scenes with some vegetation recover more quickly from stress than people exposed to urban scenes without vegetation. A visit to even a little community garden can offer a person the feeling of being away from a stressful setting.

Health effects of Community gardens:

Community gardens have positive health effects on those who contribute to the plan, particularly in the areas of decreasing body mass index & lower rates of obesity. Studies have found that community gardens in schools have been created to improve average body mass index in children. A 2013 study found that 17% of obese or overweight children improved their body mass index over 7 weeks. Exclusive, 13% of the obese children achieved a lower body mass index in the overweight range, while 23% of overweight children achieved a standard body mass index. Many studies have been performed mostly in low-income, Hispanic/Latino communities in the United States. In these programs, gardening lessons were accompanied by nutrition and cooking classes & optional parent engagement. Successful programs highlighted the essential of culturally tailored programs.

Cost of Community Gardens:

The Community Garden Start-Up developed by the University of California Co-Operative Extension, Los Angeles County, says that starting a basic community garden typically costs between $2,500 and $5,000.

A community garden can provide a fulfilling and very useful way to bond with your neighbors, promote healthier lifestyles, add urban green space, and save money on food. A 4 x 16-foot raised bed within a larger community garden can offer $200 to $600 in produce annually, depending on climate, says Bobby Wilson, president of the American Community Gardening Association.

Policy implications:

There is strong support among American adults for local & state policies and policy changes that support community gardens. A study found that 47.2% of American adults supported such type policies. However, community gardens complete with the interests of developers. Community gardens are largely impacted & governed by policies at the city level. In particular, zoning laws strongly impact the opportunity of community gardens. The momentum for reasoning often comes from the public need for access to fruits & vegetables. Further policies can be enacted to care for community gardens from future development.

Read: Organic Farming Advantages and Disadvantages.

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