The messages of new health movements and initiatives that are spreading throughout the country are clear -“Go Green,” “Eat Organic,” “Follow a Plant-based Diet.” All of this advice is sound and noteworthy. But for some, it is not practical. Economic concerns play a big role. Produce derived from organic and sustainable means tend to be higher in cost and so, for many who are trying to stretch the dollar, they are not an option. But there is a solution, a community garden.
The community garden has become a growing trend that has both taken root and branched out, providing bountiful rewards for all involved. These sustainable green spaces provide fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables for the locale in which they are cultivated and they are sprouting up throughout the nation (and worldwide) in urban, suburban, and rural communities alike. The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) defines a community garden as “any piece of land gardened by a group of people.”
The community garden requires a collaborative effort by all sectors of the public. It is a means by which members of society learn to work together in order to meet the health and nourishment needs of the community. Their design serves to foster a healthy lifestyle by planting the “seeds” of nutrition and fitness into the surrounding community.
The yield from community gardens can serve various populations. Some sectors opt to sell the products at farmer’s markets; others allow individual citizens to “rent” plots on which they grow their own crops; while yet other communities choose to donate the entire harvest to those in need. Typically, community gardens are mostly maintained by volunteers from all walks of life, such as faith-based organizations, businesses, retirement sectors, schools, scout groups, and those involved in horticulture community education programs.
As the nation attempts to combat the current overweight and obesity epidemic it faces, greater emphasis is being placed on increasing the awareness of the important role fruits and vegetables play in promoting health and preventing disease. Action is also being taken to provide easy access to fresh produce, particularly in areas that the government has classified as “food deserts.” The Garden Writer’s Association (GWA) is doing its part in bringing fresh produce to those in need through their Plant-A-Row for the Hungry program which is an initiative that was launched in 1995 and calls upon gardeners to “plant a little extra and donate the produce” to entities, such as food banks, that serve those in need. Community gardens can serve as a venue in which this initiative can be carried out.
Do you plan on donating a row of produce this growing season? Share with us, we want to know!
*”Cultivating Health One Row at at Time” is an adaptation of a previous article “Cultivating Health and Fitness: The Benefits of a Community Garden” posted April 17, 2010 by Simply Fit.