Gardens have so many incredible benefits for a community, especially when said garden brings people together. Community garden projects can boost the visual appeal of a city, while providing a safe place where people are active outdoors.
Creating community plots in parks can help bring more activity to parks and increase economic activity, while providing plenty of volunteer opportunities. Consuming locally grown vegetables can also make a big impact on the environment, personal health, and your community.
Community garden projects can also help boost the food security of your city, while saving people money, and providing opportunities to share knowledge and skills. In 1999, the City Farms program by “Just Food” grew nearly 11,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits, with nearly half of it being donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries. The power of community garden projects is clear. Here’s how and to get your parks and recreation organization to start more community garden projects and why they can be so influential.
Engage those Green Thumbs
The benefits of gardening can’t be understated. They provide learning opportunities for youth and adults, therapeutic benefits – on top of all of the known benefits of being active and outdoors – and help your community grow. One of those great effects comes from your community feeling and increased sense of ownership over public land, leading to higher civic engagement and awareness. This plays a ripple effect throughout your parks and rec organization, boosting membership and interest in your public programs.
The general goal for parks and recreation organizations is to get your community active and outdoors. By creating an easily noticeable piece of permanent program outdoors in your parks, gardens are both engaging and eye-catching. Situating your community garden projects near recreation facilities and parks can increase usage and well-being.
Program Content and Opportunities
Having a healthy amount of garden space can bring on a whole slew of new programs you can introduce. Educational workshops of various topics can be held at these gardens, including planting tips, natural pest control techniques, learning about varieties of vegetables, building beautiful floral arrangements, and even cooking classes. Look into your networks, to find people who are experts in certain categories, and see if they are good candidates to hold workshops. You may find a number of gardening enthusiasts in your volunteer pool, with a lot of other volunteers wanting to learn. Once your city’s community gardens grow to a large scale, you may need these volunteers to help tend and manage these community garden projects.
Another idea is to check in with your local chef community — some cities have chef associations you can reach out to — and create educational programs around what to do with the vegetables. You can even hold cooking classes, with each class focusing on a different vegetable grown in the garden. Look for chefs who are passionate about sourcing their ingredients locally, as they’ll be able to communicate their passion, knowledge, as well as the benefits of eating local. With a partnership with local chefs and restaurateurs, you may be able to get your organization’s name or logo on certain menus, further growing your brand among local professionals and food enthusiasts.
City Bylaws and Incentives
Working closely with your city can help you avoid any unnecessary headaches in the future and aid you in making sure you have a concerted stance on community gardens. With all of the civic benefits of having gardens pop up across your city, you can make it a no-brainer for your city council to help your organization start community garden projects. In many municipalities across North America, housing developers receive tax benefits on any land they utilize for public gardens. This can be a great way to use empty space to create community gardens, especially if your parks have limited arable soil.
There may also be federal or state level incentives for starting gardens, such as direct funding or start-up resources. Creating an incentive on a city level to get your citizens gardening more is a win-win for all. Make it easier for your community to start a community garden, by creating a fast-track system that allows you to skip repetitive steps in the process. For more information, check out the American Community Garden Association’s guidelines for launching a successful community garden in your neighborhood.
We love seeing our parks and recreation clients hosting so many great community garden programs. King County seeks to connect community groups, food security organizations, and gardening enthusiasts to their lands that are suitable for community gardening. Comox Valley shares great tips for healthy lawns and gardens. The City of Courtenay hosts the Mile of Flowers; the biggest planting event in their city that is now celebrating its 50th anniversary, involving hundreds of volunteers and 40,000 flowers.