2022 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – Horticulture, Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL)
T. Freeman, UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County, Florida
Situation: Research has demonstrated that community gardens have a number of positive health benefits, including improved access to food and better nutrition; increased physical activity; improved mental health; increased social capital; and improved local ecology and sustainability, which in turn leads to improved long-term health. Objective: Our community garden program aims to provide a gardening environment where plot holders quality of life is enhanced physically, financially, and socially, as well as provide opportunities to improve participants gardening knowledge and skillset. Specifically, 50% of plot holders will report increased health and well-being, as well as improved gardening skills, as a result of participating in our community garden program. Methods: UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County offers a 2-acre community garden to county residents for a modest fee, which includes a 20’ x 20’ or 20’ x 30’ plot of land and irrigation source. Plot holders are offered direct and indirect educational opportunities to enhance gardening skills, including programs, newsletters, display gardens, and one-on-one consultations with agent, Master Gardener Volunteers, and/or other plot holders. Results: Annual surveys from the past 5 years have collected data on the benefits experienced as a result of participating in our community garden program. From 2017 to 2021, community garden participants reported improved health and well-being: 88% (n=42) reported monetary savings; 91% (n=43) experienced increased access to fresh, healthy foods; 80% (n=44) improved health or nutrition; 93% (n=43) increased physical activity; 88% (n=43) increased emotional well-being due to social contact with other gardeners; and 100% (n=43) reported increase in gardening skills or knowledge from reading the newsletter, learning from the demonstration plot, communication with other gardeners, and/or education provided by extension office. Conclusion: Participation in the community garden program is an effective path to health and well-being.