“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” – Joel Salatin
There is a growing trend of people seeking to connect with nature and create more sustainable local food systems. A diverse variety of urban spaces are appearing across the globe. Inner city vacant plots and verges, community gardens and roof top gardens have appeared throughout urban and suburban environments. Unused spaces are being converted into productive habitats which also help with community building. Part of the urban agricultural revolution is the development and spread of community gardens which are popping up in cities, on university campuses and schools as well as at corporate offices and industrial estates.
A community garden is typically a piece of land collectively gardened by a group of people in a local community. Gardens can be either owned by individuals, local councils, not for profit organisations or some form of community trust. Gardens vary from region to region but generally provide fresh produce and plants as well as fostering community and connection between local residents.
1. Community Gardens Help Provide Fresh Nutritious Food
Community gardens provide an opportunity for people to enjoy nutritious food at little or no cost. People who garden (or who live with someone who gardens) tend to eat more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. In a survey in Flint, Michigan, while only 17.8% of respondents from non-gardening households ate fruits and vegetables at least 5 times a day, that number rose to 32.4% in households with a gardener.
2. Community Gardens Foster Community and Build Networks
As well as providing fresh nutritious produce for the gardeners and their families, community gardens provide the opportunity for people from different backgrounds to come together. They help foster a sense of ownership and community. Community gardens are generally monitored and managed by the gardeners, resulting in a cleaner space and more active local community.
3. Community Gardens Provide Health Benefits
With the majority of people now living in urban environments community gardens offer escape from the concrete jungle and hustle and bustle of city living. Gardening itself offers many benefits such as stress relief, helps with building esteem, helps fight depression as well as offering physical health benefits such as increased dexterity, cardiovascular development and strength building. Researchers have also found daily gardening to represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidence by 36%. Another study estimated the risk reduction at 47%! (1)
4. Community Gardens Are Good For Local Business & Help Reduce Crime
The economic benefits of community gardens are just as diverse as the people and produce grown at them. There is evidence to suggest that community gardens make communities safer. Two studies in the ‘Journal of Environment and Behaviour’ investigated the impact that nature has on mental fatigue (often an instigator of aggression and violence), and the relationship between vegetation and crime rates in the inner city. The study found that aggression and violence was “significantly lower among those people who lived near some green space than those who lived in more barren conditions”.
They also attract small businesses looking to relocate. Community gardens also foster and can help provide employment, education, and entrepreneurship. They provide opportunities for a wide variety of people, including students, recent immigrants and homeless people. They can also have the benefit of reducing the cost for local councils, as vacant lots can be magnets for litter and criminal activity. All of this often comes at little or no cost to the city. Developing and maintaining garden space is less expensive than parkland area, in part because gardens require little land and 80% of their cost is in labor.(2)
5.Community Gardens Can Have a Positive Effect on Property Prices
Community gardens also have a positive impact on nearby property prices. A New York University study looked at the impact of community gardens on the neighboring property values. The authors of the study, Vicki Been and Ioan Voicu, compared the sales prices of properties within a certain distance from community gardens, to prices of similar properties in the same neighborhood, but not near a garden. By comparing prices in the same neighborhood, the authors hoped to deal with the potential price difference due to neighborhood location. The study found that community gardens have statistically significant positive effects on the values of property within 1,000 feet of the garden. Interestingly, the authors found that these positive effects were strongest in lower-income neighborhoods. Community gardens raised property values by up to 9.5 percent within five years in the poorest neighborhood measured. The effect also increased over time; as each year went by after the opening of a community garden, the prices of nearby properties increased more and more in relation to properties that did not have access to a community garden. (3)
Excerpts from Rethink…Your world, Your future.
(2/3) from Rethink…Your world, Your future.
Cover Image: Manoa Community Gardens Scott Nelson Flickr