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Community Gardens

Areas where neighbors get together to grow and harvest their own food.

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Community Gardens: Redefining the Phrase "Plow the Roads!"

  • Jun 13, 2011
  • by
Last year, I was given an honor assignment of documenting the development and growth of a small community garden at Wicker Park Grace, a small Christian spiritual community in Chicago. I was happy to be a part of the project, which was a runaway success. Shooting the videos was tricky because I had a group of people who were either averse to appearing on camera or didn't have the time to do so even if they weren't, my video equipment was a single recorder which happened to be attached to my camera, and I haven't quite figured out the way to use my iMovie editor. Considering all, my video efforts turned out decent, and I got some spectacular photos.

Part of the reason I did the project was because I believe in the idea of community gardens. If you want to ensure that your vegetables are being grown completely naturally, there is no better way to do that then growing them yourself. In an otherwise small and ugly little driveway, we were able to grow a wide variety of vegetables which included tomatoes, eggplants, mint, cucumbers, peas, and kale which we then used to enhance our traditional Sunday dinners.

You might have noticed that I said we grew these veggies in a driveway. That wasn't a typo. One of the great things about community gardens is they can go a long distance in prettying up even the ugliest urban blight. To build a garden in a wrecked driveway, you need a bit more than just the dirt pile you can find in many undeveloped alleys. It requires you to physically build the beds out of wood, but it's entirely possible once you're able to get the proper placements for right amount of sunlight exposure and a decent source of water. Yes, you do have to water these gardens, especially if the summer is unbearably hot.

As I mentioned, community gardens are the best way to ensure your vegetables are natural. Most community gardeners are organaphiles, so they don't use any growth enhancers, plant foods, or pesticides.

An unexpected bonus of community gardening is how great a bonding and outreach activity it can be. It's easy to meet and get to know a lot of different people, especially when the project is still being conceived and built. At Wicker Park Grace, we shared our building with a lot of other businesses and we let anyone who was in the building take whatever crops they wanted if they felt inclined to do so.

Unfortunately, larger city governments (and by that I mean city governments that are intrusive, not governments in larger cities) are starting to notice this phenomenon, and some of them are a little uncomfortable with it, probably because community gardening has so far left them unable to collect their precious, ill-gotten tax money. When I moved back to Buffalo a few months ago, I was horrified to discover that the city was starting to push gardeners around for not having permits. The idea of taxing gardens or needing permits to set them up is not just excessively stupid, it's also socially irresponsible because some community gardeners might not be able to afford permits or higher taxes.

Cities taking money from community gardens is an idea which needs to be fought to the last, because community gardens are worth fighting for.

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February 19
Roof gardens are sprouting up in NYC.
More Community Gardens reviews
review by . February 10, 2010
Combining the two great ideas of buying locally and creating your own garden is the ingenious idea of community gardens. These gardens are turning parking lots and abandoned wasteland in cities into gorgeous and fertile places for the local people to grow and harvest their own food. Some people are even donating what they have grown to others. They can range from a small vegetable gardens called "victory gardens" to larger areas to preserve local nature and habitat. Each grower will be …
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #17
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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Community gardens provide access to fresh produce and plants as well as access to satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment.  They are publicly functioning in terms of ownership, access, and management, as well as typically owned in trust by local governments or nonprofits. A community garden brings your community closer.

A city’s community gardens can be as diverse as its communities of gardeners. Some choose to solely grow flowers, others are nurtured communally and their bounty shared, some have individual plots for personal use, while others are equipped with raised beds for disabled gardeners.

Community gardens encourage an urban community's food security, allowing citizens to grow their own food or for others to donate what they have grown. The gardens also combat two forms of alienation that plague modern urban life, by bringing urban gardeners closer in touch with the source of their food, and by breaking down isolation by creating a social community. It has also been found that active communities experience less crime and vandalism.
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