Learning Self-Sufficiency Through Community Organic Gardens

Look around your neighborhood.  In a ten block drive, how many places can you count that could potentially become a community organic garden? 

Are there vacant lots, or abandoned buildings that are otherwise serving no purpose?  What would it look like instead if there were garden plots, and neighbors working together in those spaces?

Residents of cities and villages throughout the nation are asking themselves the same question - and the result is a growing trend: community organic gardens. Here's what we found out.

What's the Buzz All About?

A funny thing happens when we get out of our homes, into the fresh air - and realize we can become providers of a portion of our own sustenance.

It's empowering.

There is a sense of pride in knowing that you are providing a service, producing a product, or contributing ideas to the greater world by teaching others to garden.  And it's satisfying to know you're feeding yourself.

Put these two factors together and you have community gardening. Along with natural, organic methods, community gardening is no longer a niche category. It's been spurred by studies showing that community gardening provides real food - and real help - to various groups, including those who experience food insecurity.

Experts say community garden initiatives are a great way to give a parent and family a sense of self worth. They also bring people together so they can get to know their neighbors - something that's becoming rarer in the era of tablets and cell phones.

Community gardens:

  • offer a place to garden if you have limited yard space, or live in an apartment or condominium without grounds to plant on
  • provide a healthy outdoor activity that's low-impact and goes at your own personal pace
  • can help lower income families not only supply food to their loved ones, but to feel positive and active
  • are a great opportunity to get to know a few "neighbors" you might otherwise never see
  • provide a fantastic learning opportunity for you and for others, as you interact and exchange tips

If You Don't Have a Community Garden in Your Area

Intrigued, but there's no community garden in your locale? Visit your city hall and ask!

If you're considering asking your city to sponsor a new community garden, also find out how businesses may want to contribute to keeping it organic.

Local businesses may be willing to donate scraps for compost heaps, organic fertilizer or may even contribute to renting the area so people can stake out their plots and start planting.

If you have a knowledge of organic gardening, you can contribute by sharing it whenever you have a "partner" at your side gardening in his/her plot. Also consider sharing your own seeds or compost.

Does it HAVE to Be Organic?

No. However, some community gardens do have certain limitations and rules as to what chemicals and methods may be used. This is helpful, as certain chemical fertilizers will leech easily to other plots, including yours.

Consider getting in with a group of neighbors, renting adjoining plots in your community garden and keeping things organic within your "rectangle." Then offer help if you see a fellow gardener. Don't push, but do be a resource when you can.

Does it Always Cost Money?

No. Different cities have different rules. Community gardens may be on business- or otherwise owned area (churches, for example). These may or may not charge for you to rent your plot for a season.

When there is a charge, generally, it's low. Some community gardens ask only that you contribute fertilizer, seeds or seedlings when you can.

Contributing to a community garden connects you with the earth, allows you to experience and learn organic gardening (if that's your preference), and gives you the opportunity to be a part of your neighborhood. And the results are downright delicious - so go for it!


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