Community is not a term used often in urban centers and cities. Cities have become monsters of consumption rapidly depleting local natural resources in the never-ending growth of urban sprawl. As urban areas continue to grow, communities are loosing the necessary green space for recreation, relaxation, neighborhood gatherings, and all those social aspects that enable strong community relationships to exist.
Community Development Through Gardening
Creating community gardens is a tangible way to affect positive change through both sustainable living and through community development. Neighborhood gardens create green spaces where people can congregate away from the chaos of urbanity and grow nutritious food for themselves and their community. Creating and participating in community gardens sis a fulfilling and empowering way to build social networks and make a personal commitment to change the ills of our world.
A community garden is a piece of land shared by friends and neighbors for growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers and provide opportunities for positive social interactions and recreation. Community gardens may be located just about anywhere: an abandoned lot between two buildings, at the edge of an urban center, in an apartment building courtyard, on hospital grounds, alongside ally ways or railroad tracks, or even in your neighbor’s backyard.
A variety of community gardens can be created to serve specific aspects of a community:
Neighborhood gardens are for people without their own gardening space and serve as a gathering space for neighbors.
Youth or school gardens help youth groups participate in hands-on learning of not only sustainable gardening techniques but various aspects of biology, environmental science, mathematics, and cooperation.
Food pantry gardens donate to local food banks and help supplement fresh produce which is often lacking.
Mental health/rehabilitation therapy gardens help individuals connect with the land and demonstrates tangible results of delicious food through care of a garden.
Job training gardens are often run in conjunction with local farmers’ markets and provide job-training, leadership training, business internship programs, and help the community through economic diversifications programs.
Senior citizen gardens are generally associated with assisted living centers or retirement communities and enable a greater sense of neighborhood community. Integrating a senior citizen garden with a youth program can also bridge the generational gap, relate traditional gardening knowledge of heirloom plants, and provide for mentorship of youth.
Regardless of the type of community garden pursued, community building will result. Neighborhood bonds result from a sense of shared responsibility and pride of accomplishment. An area previously deemed unusable and blight on a community will turn into urban green space used for all sorts of community development and neighborhood gatherings. -KATHY FAIRCHILD