The Amazing Effects of a Neighborhood Garden

A community garden can make a neighborhood beautiful and provide lots of wonderful produce. The real beauty, however, is how a garden can bring people together.
Edwin Marty

All over the South, from bustling cities to quiet country towns, vacant land bursts with potential--the potential to help us grow together. From Maryland to Miami, people are discovering the amazing effects that planting a seed in a vacant lot can have on individuals and their neighborhoods.

In Decatur, Georgia, the Scott Park Community Garden flourishes as an example of what a group endeavor can do. The garden weaves a colorful fabric out of the many diverse threads in a modern community.

Rewards of a  Community Garden

  • Beautifies a neighborhood and generates more community pride and involvement.
  • Helps people learn how to work together in a positive way.
  • Provides access to healthy food in metropolitan areas.
  • Connects participants of all ages and abilities to nature and the earth.
     

Growing Commitment
Most community gardens are created with a specific goal in mind. Scott Park is no exception. This garden originally began as an opportunity for seniors from a nearby retirement facility to go outdoors and get their hands in the soil. When the garden had to move to its current location, it opened up to everyone who lived in the area.

The garden thrives with this new diversity, and that's exactly what makes it so special to the people who work there. Terri Jagger Blincoe Martin, a Master Gardener involved with the project, says, "I really love the variety in age, culture, and the people's backgrounds. Everyone has something unique and different to share." The DeKalb County Parks & Recreation Department helped build this greenspace, and an impressive collaboration between the City of Decatur and the County Extension's Master Gardener Program allows the garden to continue to prosper.

Fresh Food Without a Garden
Even if you don't have access to a community garden, you can still benefit from the positive influences fresh food can have on your life. Visit your local farmers market for the freshest food available and help support family farms. Check out www.localharvest.org for information on where to find family farms, farmers markets, and farm stands in your area.

Common Ground
Traditionally, communities had bonds such as ethnicity or employment that connected their members. Today, though, we may live next to a family who speaks a different language or have a neighbor who works an hour away from home. This can make living in a neighborhood feel isolating and confusing. Yet diversity also offers potential.

A community garden taps into this by providing common ground for people of any age or ethnicity to share their knowledge, passion, or curiosity. And because gardening is a universal language, there are no limits to who can be involved. "Part of what I love about this garden," says Ruby Block, a Master Gardener assigned to Scott Park, "is that we have a wide age range of gardeners. There's a 92-year-old out here as well as a mom with a 3-year-old."

Start Your Own
While no two community gardens are just alike, some common elements link the more successful ones. To begin, access to land should not be an inhibitor to creating a garden. A community garden can have a tremendous positive impact on a neighborhood, so government officials are often more than willing to help get something started. Churches and retirement communities are also good sources for usable land and partnerships.

For information on community gardens throughout the U.S. and on how to start your own community garden, visit the American Community Gardening Association's Web site at www.communitygarden.org or call toll-free 1-877-275-2242.
 


"The Amazing Effects of a Neighborhood Garden" is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living.