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The rise in community gardens

  • 25 April 2020 --  You can read this article as a basis of our discussion

When Mark Covington lost his job as an environmental engineer some years ago, he found himself living back with his mother. He decided to tidy up an empty lot near his childhood home in Detroit, planting vegetables and allowing local people to harvest them for free. Later, as a group they created an orchard,  of fruit and trees and then they converted a pair of empty buildings into a community centre. The area around his childhood home has been transformed. Residents love the free, fresh food in an area where there are no big supermarkets. 

Community gardens have taken on particular importance in Detroit due to the decline the city has suffered from in recent years. Urban farming has taken root as a way of revitalising the city. Many empty lots have been turned into gardens, and land has been turned over to agriculture. There are believed to be around 1,400 urban farmers, cultivating around 400,000 pounds of fresh produce each year. Rich Wieske, who runs more than 60 beehives in inner-city Detroit and sells the honey, told the press that his harvests were as high as anywhere else in the US. “There is so much forage, so much land for the bees,” he said.

However, it’s not just happening in Detroit. Community gardens have also taken off elsewhere in the US and in Europe, for many different reasons.

More and more people want to know where their food comes from and they want to eat food that is free of pesticides and chemicals. They also want to be involved in planting and growing what they eat. Community gardens enable local people to come together. Parents can teach their children about where food comes from, and how to grow it. And studies have found that they make people eat more healthily. 

Some gardens, such as the Clinton Community Garden in Manhattan, are gathering places; they often showcase art and ecological awareness. Food production is part of a larger vision for the space. Other community gardens are devoted to creating green space, or for allowing residents who do not have a garden the opportunity to garden. The largest community garden in the US is in Texas; it measures 14.5 acres.

Some gardens are able to sell their produce commercially, but rules prevent others from doing so. However, they can donate fresh fruits and vegetables to cooperatives, food pantries and homeless people.

Recent public health evaluations in the US found that community gardens are a way of promoting healthy behaviours. Gardening improves dietary intake in children and reduces obesity, according to one study.

In my opinion, community gardens are a fantastic idea, and not just in cities like Detroit where they are particularly needed. Community gardens bring people together, and allow people to plant and grow their own foods, something many of us would never get the chance to do otherwise. I’m glad that they are becoming more and more popular.

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