What are Community Gardens?
Have you considered joining a local community garden? Were you unsure exactly what is a community garden? This is usually one of the first questions I get from new garden members. They know they can grow vegetables and fruits, but not much else. Community gardens are much more than just a place to grow vegetables. The name itself provides the key to understanding the true definition of a community garden. Community gardens are public green spaces that provide social interaction, recreation, education, and community building. They may focus on food production or beautification, but they all have people and plants in common. Essentially, community gardens provide educational, health, and social benefits to the areas around them.
Community Gardens can be Educational
Community gardens are wonderful vehicles for providing education to a community. In Manatee County, our community gardens program offers free hands-on workshops within the gardens on a monthly basis. We cover topics from seed saving, pest and beneficial insect identification, vegetable disease symptoms, and how to solarize your garden bed. Community gardeners also contribute to this educational pool. Veteran gardeners may share tips and techniques with rookie gardeners, and new ideas are constantly shared throughout the garden. The gardens also provide a location for more static forms of education such as fact sheets and recommendations for the community to use at their leisure.
Gardening comes with Benefits!
Providing educational benefits is not the only good thing to come from community gardens. The gardens also allow for many health benefits. Gardening, as an activity, provides physical exercise and stress relief. Fruits and vegetables become more familiar to the community and may even begin to form a larger part of their diets. Access to healthy food and exercise may also increase the general happiness of the participants too! Aside from stress relief, there may be other mental health benefits such as reduced anger or anxiety, living in the present, and connecting with nature.
And if you need some social time … Garden!
In combination with the health benefits of community gardens, they also provide social benefits to the community as well. Community gardens help foster the development of a community by bringing diverse groups of people together. This provides opportunities to interact with people you may have never considered engaging with. The gardens also allow for inter generational interaction, which is often lacking in our modern culture. Elders in the garden can communicate and pass knowledge down to the younger people in the garden, and the younger people have an opportunity to share new and exciting ideas with the older generations.
Now that you have a small picture of what a community garden can be, I encourage you to join a local garden near you. Community gardens can be a place to grow food, but they can also be so much more! They will provide you with friends, fun, and food for every season.
Article written by Mack Lessig, Community Garden Program Assistant, edited by Lisa Hickey, Sustainable Food Systems EA II. If you have any questions on starting a community garden, call Mack. If you want to start a small farm with fruits or vegetables, call Lisa. We can be reached at (941)722-4524. Our webpages are https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/manatee/lawn–garden/community–school-gardens/ AND https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/manatee/agriculture/vegetable–row-crops/