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The Rise of Community Gardening – Guest Post

With the highest rising obesity rates in the world, major health issues in the U.S. are beginning to take their toll on the population at large. In 2010, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) stated the worrying statistic that around 35.7% of adults are obese, as well as 17% of the populace’s children. These figures cast ugly aspersions on our ability to eat well, and can be seen as a comment on our lack of self-control and our attempts to eschew the temptations of the pervasive fast food world.

The Rise of Community Gardening

Thankfully, things are now changing.

The number of health-aware consumers is steadily climbing nationwide, and a newly conscious society is emerging. It’s important to understand the journey of any of the thousands of food products that end up on your plate. Being knowledgeable about the meals you consume means you can ask informed questions about any worries or concerns you may have. With the burgeoning power of online communication and the influential weight of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, members of the general public can now research and educate themselves about the food that they’re buying, preparing, and serving to their family and friends.

You may have noticed the striking increase in farmers markets, organic supermarkets and the special supplementary organic sections in key grocery stores. The organic production industry was reportedly worth $12.4 billion in America alone a mere two years ago, and has been on an unshakable upward trajectory ever since.

Over decades, farmers have been producing crops routinely sprayed with all kinds of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and other chemical-altering mixtures and, in recent years, consumers have altered their attitudes towards GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Mankind’s innovative technological advances in biochemistry and engineering have somewhat backfired, helping us journey down a dangerous path. Through the habitual manipulation of Mother Nature, fresh fruits and vegetables have become disturbingly less healthy. Combine this with the everlasting criticism over the ubiquitous fast food presence assailing our daily culture, and you can see why so many are looking for cleaner methods of quality food production.

Comparable to a food-based time-share opportunity, the worthwhile and gratifying concept of community organic gardening encourages a group of friends and/or neighbors to rent a piece of fallow land and, with the use of organic fertilizers, grow what they choose. Renting several plots of fertile soil will supply gardeners with the prospect of growing a whole host of delicious crops, including potatoes, tomatoes, apples, sweet corn and cabbages, herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley and thyme, and a multitude of vibrant, colorful flowers.

Shared public garden spaces are typically popular for those who live in apartments and don’t have their own backyard. Community gardening develops a palpable sense of community spirit, because it’s an enterprise that brings together those from varying cultural and economic backgrounds, and unites people of different race and age groups through the beautification of nature. Therefore, community gardening reaps enormous social rewards, as well as a feeling of neighborhood improvement and a much-needed connection to the environment.

No Room for a Garden? Find a Community Garden

Not everyone has the space for their own garden. While you can do a little kitchen garden and grow some herbs and perhaps some tomatoes, it’s really hard to do a serious garden if you don’t have the space. You might be fortunate enough to have an option in some areas.

Some neighborhoods have community gardens set up. These may be many individual plots that you can sign up for or a single plot that anyone in the community can help with. It’s a chance for you to garden even if you don’t otherwise have the space. The American Community Gardening Association is a great place to start learning about community gardens.

If there’s a community garden already in your area, go find out how to join. There may be fees associated, as there are costs to running a community garden, from leasing or buying the land, to the cost of insurance, to the cost of water.

If you can’t find a community garden in your area, you might be able to start one with others in your area who would like to garden. Start talking about it in your neighborhood. Look for empty lots that could serve. Start talking to sponsors to help with the costs once you have enough people to get things going.

It can be challenging to start a community garden. You may not find the support you were hoping for. There may be some people flat out opposed to the idea. The only way you’re going to find out if things can work, however, is to give it a try.

It helps to remind people that a community garden isn’t just about giving people a place to grow flowers and vegetables. It’s a way to bring the community together. It’s a way to teach children about where food comes from and give them real experiences with growing food. It’s a way to make healthier foods more accessible.

Community gardens can even help to deter crime. They get people out into the neighborhood and helps them to get to know each other. There are more eyes outside, so to speak.

The people who participate in the community garden may even be interested in getting together on other topics of concern. You have one point of interest in common. You may be able to get members of the community garden group to work on other activities as well. It’s great for making needed changes in the community.

You will find being a part of a community garden to be a fair bit of work. That’s reasonable, as any sort of gardening takes significant effort. But you may have to add into those efforts the work needed to make the garden function for everyone, deal with disputes and cope with troublemakers. But you’ll be joining in efforts to really improve your community.