The spread of urban agriculture in recent years has given birth to numerous movements and opportunities. One such opportunity is the realm of community gardening.
One of the earliest and most successful examples of community gardening lies just north of Indiana, in Michigan. The Greening of Detroit is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by Elizabeth Gordon Sachs. At its conception, the sole focus of this project was to restore the diminished tree infrastructure of the city.
Within the last year, Detroit managed to overcome one of the most crippling bankruptcy situations in the U.S., continuing to expand ever since. Today, the focus has shifted toward improving quality of life for Detroit residents through renovation of existing land, ultimately creating a cleaner city with more productive green spaces.
Another example of community gardening can be found closer to home in Fort Wayne. Purdue University’s Allen County Extension Office launched a community gardening initiative seven years ago after receiving increasing requests from individuals and local organizations.
The Master Gardener Program currently rents out 25 plots of land to residents for a small fee. They grow plants and vegetables of their choosing.
“Most of these people don’t have the ability to grow vegetables at their own properties, so really the mission is to promote healthy foods for folks to grow on their own,” says Ricky Kemery, Purdue Extension horticulture educator in Allen County. “We hope to at least start to solve some of the problems that occur with food deserts and nutrition that goes along with eating healthy vegetables for certain populations.”
Master Gardener spinoff
Kemery is at the front of about 370 Master Gardeners in Allen County, accumulating a combined 17,000 hours of service each year. Kemery says community gardening is a way to connect people to farmers.
A lot of people involved in community gardens are already interested in local food. They’ll connect to farmers through farm markets. They might be more likely to visit a farm market because there’s a big movement toward local foods.
“They can connect in that way so that they might understand the food systems more and might go to farm markets to talk with local farmers directly,” Kemery says. “So that’s a benefit. The more people that know how food is grown, and know what it takes, the more people [who will] appreciate the food that’s grown for them.”
Miller is a senior in ag communication at Purdue University.