WHY EVERY TOWN SHOULD HAVE
A COMMUNITY GARDEN
Author: Katie Runk
Published: October 31, 2021
There are countless benefits to having a community garden in an area, but the main one, of course, is food! Gardens produce hundreds of pounds of produce for a fraction of the cost of store-bought foods. The garden-grown food is also higher in nutrition than mass-produced produce, which is usually pumped up with growth genetic modification and is more watered-down than naturally grown fruits and vegetables. This can greatly improve the quality of life of people in the community, especially families, by giving them fair access to high-quality food they would otherwise not be able to afford.
In the whirlwind of our modern world, we often neglect to remember that we are only human beings: living creatures who evolved to be immersed in the natural world. We have a tendency to confine ourselves within our manmade spaces, so much so that most of our lives are spent in a series of cubes closed of from the outside world. We become deeply unbalanced without even realizing it, but reconnecting with the nature our ancestors have convinced us to run from can bring harmony to ourselves. Countless psychological studies have identified distinct links between exposure to nature and the following: decreased blood pressure, clear mental cognition, and heightened sense of well-being. This is especially vital for children, who are commonly deprived of the environmental interaction that is essential for healthy mental and emotional growth.
Community gardens also contribute to environmental justice. In most cases of industrial agriculture, underpaid and overworked laborers are taken advantage of by the large corporations who hold a monopoly over the food industry. Localization of agriculture redistributes power and autonomy to the people. Capitalism functions in a way that gives you no choice but to be unethical, to purchase food whose growth destroys the environment and was harvested with neo-slave labor, but growing your own food gives you independence from that system.
When thinking about climate change, you wouldn't ordinarily think about community gardens. The two subjects might seem completely unrelated, but community gardens could become the solution to future food scarcity caused by disruptions in our economy’s supply chain. As of now, produce must be transported thousands of miles from sources all around the world, and almost every supermarket in America relies on imported food. So, what is going to happen when we run out of oil? If communities are completely reliant on outside sources, a confusing and chaotic nightmare of food scarcity could come to life. Our long-distance food economy is not sustainable, so we must make preparations for that collapse, and one of the ways we can do that is by encouraging community farming.
Reconnecting with nature reconnects us with ourselves. Introducing community gardens across the country could be one of the first steps to transforming our modern world into one that is not in competition with the environment, but works with it. Humans and the environment are meant to work together, and by managing the environment on a local scale and circulating the food in a smaller community, we can reestablish a harmony with nature without taking advantage of it.
Imagine that you walk into your local community garden. The sun warms your face, the breeze carrying the fresh scent of greenery as your eyes roam over the sprawling plots of bright green leaves, rich soil, and vibrant produce. You see people roaming through the area, chatting and exchanging tips and tools, working harmoniously alongside one another for the common task of nurturing the land. You weave through the private plots to your own raised bed feel satisfaction as you look at the fruits of your labor: ripened tomatoes, cucumber, sweet peas, carrots, zucchini, and even a small patch of edible flowers and herbs. With the help of the community, the process was so much easier and so much more enjoyable than you'd imagined. After harvesting the ripened produce, you deposit what you don’t need into the donation bins to be distributed freely back into the community, and you leave the garden with your delicious fresh food, looking forward to your next trip back.
According to the University of Houston’s Office of Sustainability, “Community gardening is simply the growing of healthy food on a piece of land in a specific community by those in the community to share among themselves and with others through donation.” These gardens promote a healthy and happy community by providing nutritious accessible produce and connecting people with nature and each other. Generally, there will be a collection of small-to-medium raised garden beds on an area of land, often along with a garden shed and a fence around the area. The beds will be reserved for personal gardening, claimed by the citizens of a community. Usually, there will be a certain time when it is open and close, and people will go at their leisure to tend to their plots, often helping or being helped by other gardeners. These gardens often also contain other features, such as public fruit orchards, berry bushes, and a compost pile for community fertilizer.