What Are the Societal Benefits of Building a Community Garden or Community Supported Farm? (by G.H.)

Culminating Project Question and Part 1:

 The Research Question: What are the societal benefits of building a community garden or community supported farm?

 

urban_farmThe Research Collection 

Hamilton, Martha M. “Urban Farming Yields Fresh Foods, Land Reuse.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 18 May 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140518-urban-farming-produce-chickens-community-agriculture-food/&gt;.

I like this article because it’s not only a recent, mainstream source, but it really pays attention to some of the hotter topics we all face such as environment quality, “food deserts”, and community impacts of better foods.

 

Brownlee, Michael. “The Local Food and Farming Revolution.” Transition Times RSS. N.p., 8 Mar. 2010. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://transition-times.com/blog/2010/03/08/the-local-food-and-farming-revolution/&gt;.

I’m not even sure where to start on this one. Michael Brownlee just lays down massive amounts of data in this article, and the data he provided is as sound today as it was four years ago. I do like the emphasis on manual labor small farm work and it’s direct impact in fossil fuel consumption. By eliminating large distribution areas, we can cut fuel costs in a massive way.

 

Paul, Stella. “India’s Dalit Women Empowered by Collective Farming.” WNN – Women News Network. Global Press Institute, 27 May 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://womennewsnetwork.net/2014/05/27/indias-dalit-women-empowered-by-collective-farming/&gt;.

This article literally popped up on my news feed the day I began researching and it hits home in such a very different way than others. It’s a great article about the caste system in India, and how these women, who were all but ignored by society, now have a thriving, collective farm that raises their standard of living immensely.

 

Bellows, A. C., Brown, K., & Smit, J. (2004). Health benefits of urban agriculture. Community Food Security Coalition’s North American Initiative on Urban Agriculture. Portland, OR http://www.co.fresno.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Departments/Behavioral_Health/MHSA/Health%20Benefits%20of%20Urban%20Agriculture%20(1-8).pdf

Another great article on health benefits of urban farming initiatives. I am intrigued by their mentioning of a psychological link to food production and eating your own product. The added knowledge and hands on experience directly translate to greater intake of healthier foods.

 

DeMuro, Katie. “The Many Benefits of Community Gardens.” Greenleaf Communities. N.p., 11 July 2013. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://greenleafcommunities.org/the-many-benefits-of-community-gardens/&gt;.

This one focuses on smaller community gardens and their collective impact and benefits. I particularly like how they tackle the community benefit of land use in regards to crime, pollution, property values, and, of course, the health benefits.

 

The Public Writing

Societal Benefits of Building Community Gardens or Community Supported Farms

I didn’t always live in the city. Most of my adolescence was spent in rural Kentucky where we had a small farm, an even smaller garden, and not a lot of access to fast food. I railed against that as I grew older, eschewing that country lifestyle and firmly embracing my freedom in the city life. With access to processed food, and a meager income, I soon forgot the joys of fresh vegetables and locally raised livestock and begun to rely on cheap, processed “foods”. Fast forward many years later, and through a series of events, I decided to eat healthy, and get myself back on course. Imagine the surprise I had to realize that I now wanted the clean, healthy foods I had in my perceived backwards, unpleasant rural adolescence. While it’s a dream to have a small farm somewhere out of the city, until then, I’m on a quest to make as much of my little yard into food production.

Our yard garden efforts along with being a member of a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm allows us to not only produce our own food, but enjoy a collective raise in nutritional and environmental status of our community. Involvement in the CSA provides local jobs, supplies local restaurants with great vegetables, and also brings members closer to truly knowing where their food comes from. There’s even opportunity to work on the farms and be a part of giving back to the community at large. That connection helps to sever the ties from big agriculture and our money directly shapes and grows the food availability around us. That direct monetary, and perhaps volunteer, impact into the local farming community rewards the community in waves.

The larger CSA farm benefits also share common benefits with the community garden model. Many of those benefits have a major impact in the local community beyond just food production. Take India, for example. In the southern parts of India, although illegal to discriminate due to the old caste system, many of the Dalit caste are impoverished and lacking in both possessions and nutrition. The Dalit women of those areas have come together to start community farms on small parcels of land and have not only found a place in a society that shuns them, but now provide nutritional foods to themselves and those around them. The additional benefits of this type of empowerment also have far reaching effects on the local economy by reducing costs of produce and more availability of nutritious foods to the community, thus potentially reducing long term healthcare costs. In addition to nutrition, there’s also the fact that to work on farming is physical activity, and sometimes strenuous activity. That also directly contributes to overall better health.

Not only is there the pride and empowerment of creating something and contributing to the community, but there’s also evidence that converting unused lots to garden space drops the crime rate by reducing unsavory areas, and also raises property values for local residents. Furthermore, the net environmental benefit of more green spaces improves air quality and invites biodiversity to an ecosystem ravaged by development. Along with direct community impact, farming also teaches valuable life and work skills that can translate into and empower the local workforce.

Currently my dream of starting a local food exchange or collective food production model isn’t set, but I have food swaps set up with friends. Our hens generally produce enough eggs for us, but if we travel or aren’t eating them often, they add up quick. Those eggs, along with the yield of some very enthusiastic cherry tomato plants, which are far too much for us to consume, are being exchanged for another friend’s kale and spinach. Other friends have fruit trees and small patches of herbs and other vegetables that we could also trade for. What I’d like to do is not only be a part of a community garden, but also have food exchanges for others who have abundance. By doing this, it increases food diversity for the community, and lessens spoilage and waste.

See my blog at : http://growingupnotout.blogspot.com/!

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2 comments

  1. Andrea Russell

    G.H., I love that you included an article about the women of India. It is always nice to see “the underdog” succeed. Your introduction is really good. I can relate very well to how you feel, in fact most people probably can. How many children do you know who can’t wait to eat their vegetables? I think that is along the same lines just on a much smaller scale.

    The CSA sounds like a great volunteer opportunity for anyone, but especially people that want to eat healthy and local. Your idea for a food exchange blows my mind! It is so easy for someone to grow one or two plants in a garden and then trade extras with someone who grew something else. I love that idea!!!

    -Andrea

  2. I’m relieved and thrilled to find out more about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. Truthfully, I was in the dark about local farming, thinking it was in the past. I complain about processed food but I didn’t know what avenues I could take to make a change. Your article reminded me that by purchasing from CSA farms, I can directly make an impact to food quality at least in our local area if not throughout the nation. Your story inspired me to do more investigation on volunteering to support and see firsthand the great work being done. It will also give me some relief to know where my food comes from.

    I’m not convenience yet about the converting unused lots to garden spaces. I would have liked to hear more of the statistics presented or examples stated of where and how crime rates can be reduced and property value increased for local residence. Would this be something to consider in urban Portland? I can understand the environmental impact for sure. Thank you for opening up my eyes to greater possibilities and showcasing local opportunities to take charge of the food we eat and make a positive change in the food chain process.

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