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What is a Community Garden?

Sheryl McGlochlin - Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Published: May 11, 2009, 12:00 am
Revised: May 11, 2009, 8:41 pm
Author(s): Matthew H Wallace
Source: Utah Community Gardening Network
Topics: Community Gardens


A community garden is a piece of land shared by friends and neighbors for growing vegetables and flowers, and providing opportunities for positive social interactions and recreation. It may be sandwiched between two buildings, on the outskirts of a city, in an apartment building courtyard, on hospital grounds, alongside railroad tracks, or even in your own backyard.

Community gardens can take on diverse forms. Designated land can be divided up among neighbors for personal use or developed into school gardens where subjects including biology, environmental science, and mathematics can be taught and explored in the garden environment. Other community gardens have been used for growing food for food pantries, educational and training workshops, youth gardening programs, and integrated into senior centers and churches. A garden’s theme and program possibilities are virtually endless and should be the focus of the envisioning stage.

Benefits of a Community Garden:

    * Community building tool--create opportunities for neighbors to work together.
    * Grow fresh, nutritious produce in urban areas for the community or food banks.
    * Clean up and use vacant and unsightly lots.
    * Provide safe learning space for children and adults.
    * Reduce crime and vandalism.
    * Preserve urban green space.
    * Economic empowerment provide income opportunities.
    * Reduce city heat from streets and parking lots.
    * Enable positive human-earth connections and the cultivation of environmental stewardship.
    * Reduce stress and improve mental health of community members.
    * Beautify and enrich neighborhoods and enhance their sense of identity.
    * Provide opportunities for inter-generational and cross-cultural connections.


How does a Community Garden Operate?

Just as the settings for community gardens vary, so do the ways for making them work. The key to success is to create a system for decision-making and responsibility-sharing that works for you and your garden. A governance system that involves all members of the garden and interested community members in maintaining and organizing garden operations will support long-term success. Typical garden committees will address concerns about: general maintenance, garden celebrations, community relations, garden fees, rules for the garden, and the initial and long-term planning for the garden (see later sections).


What are Challenges that Community Gardens Face?

Some of the most common challenges that community gardens face include; Finding and securing land; Long-term viability due to loss of land to development; Lack of community interest; Theft and vandalism; Finding resources in an urban environment; and Fundraising

 
Source: Utah Community Gardens Network. Adapted by UCGN from "How to Start a Community Garden" Handbook by Brian Emerson .

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