Most people would agree that gardens are intrinsically beautiful, though not everyone may see the overall use for them in today’s quick "microwaveable meal" society. Although their most notable function is to produce different types of fruits, vegetables, and various plants and flowers, there are many more benefits to them on both a humane and ecological level. Jumping into gardening is no easy feat—it takes time, effort, and a good amount of knowledge. However, an easier way to transition into garden life is by participating in a community garden as it is a more approachable method for those with little experience.
Simply put, a community garden is a plot of land that is shared by a group of people, and an obvious benefit of them is that they create a real sense of community; people from all levels and areas of expertise are encouraged to take part in maintaining them. Community gardens can be utilized in four distinctive ways:
A demonstration garden: used primarily for educational purposes.
An institution garden: attached to public businesses; i.e. schools, prisons, and hospitals.
A neighborhood garden: acts as a communal garden for neighbors; plots are sometimes rented out (the most common type of garden).
A residential garden: shared by those living in affordable housing, block communities, assisted living, etc.
Community gardens—and gardening as a whole—can produce an ample amount of advantages from a personal and relational standpoint. Keeping a garden well-groomed and plentiful requires a lot of work and, therefore, can keep those tending to it productive for hours on any given day. Although community gardens can vary in size, most of them take up a decent portion of land; because of this, the gardens often rely on an adequately-sized team and an all-hands-on-deck attitude. Gardening can produce a great sense of accomplishment and it is a great way to make friends, fast. However, more compact gardens are equally indispensable. Urbanized settings don’t frequently have room to spare, but even a small amount of space can be used to its full potential by integrating gardens into a fast paced or city-oriented society. In many places, people depend on community gardens—and things of the like—to satisfy their need for nature as it can be limited in urban environments. Spending time in nature is essential to one’s overall health, with records showing a positive impact on a person’s mental health, physical well-being, intelligence, levels of stress, and so on.
From an educational perspective, these gardens can be utilized in order to gain a skill set that is valuable in numerous aspects of life. Amongst other things, they are great for learning various gardening and cooking techniques, how to preserve food, and how to properly manage land.
Community gardens can also serve as a reminder of the importance of nature and how we are able to directly reap its benefits should we treat it with the respect it deserves. Cultivating land and propagating foods and plants is a dependable and sustainable means of surviving, and history undoubtedly demonstrates this. Not only can it benefit humanity, but it can also provide a habitat and a source of food for different species. Bees, birds and insect depend on plants for survival, and gardens help supplement this need. By participating in programs that strengthen a community, you are also playing a role in constructing a more harmonious ecosystem.
With the production of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and plants being the central motive, community gardens can make a healthier lifestyle more feasible. Because you are harvesting your own food, you know what is being used to grow it, lending you peace of mind. Community gardens also offer healthier foods at an affordable price, with a good deal of people donating portions of their supply to those in need.
A notable resource in Charlotte, NC is Friendship Gardens—a project that stemmed from the desire to help secure the availability of healthy foods to local residents. Their system encourages volunteers to garden and then donate their harvest to Friendship Trays who further delivers meals straight to the doorstep of their recipients. Friendship Trays is the only nongovernmental organization in Charlotte that practices this method, and they deliver approximately 700 meals a day. By visiting their website, you can sign up for a program that best fits you; this organization is happy to train anyone interested in volunteering as they firmly believe that everyone should have reliable access to nutritional foods.
Gardening is an easy and fun way to connect back with nature; it can also have many wellness benefits while serving the local community. Learn more about the community gardens in your area and how you can get involved!
Photo 2: http://friendship-gardens.org/