Community Resilience Via Community Gardening

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in News

Community development practitioners have struggled with ways to comprehensively and successfully increase community resilience for decades. Countless programs have been implemented and millions of dollars have been spent across the country only for us to still face many of the same issues today that were prominent many years ago. At some point we have to look back and realize that what we’re doing may not be working and that new and innovative techniques should be utilized for holistically increasing community resilience and wellbeing. Among the many questions that pop into my head when nulling over this topic, one is constantly reoccurring, “Can these age-old issues be solved by something as simple as a garden?”

Some of the major issues plaguing our communities today are related to food security, availability, and affordability, our impacts on the environment and our air quality, and a disconnect from the social ties that were once the basis of strong, resilient communities. Community gardens are a one-stop shop for addressing all of these issues and more. Let’s use a community garden that I recently visited as a prime example.

The University Area Community Garden is located northwest of the University of South Florida in the middle of a struggling, low-income community. When I visited to volunteer, there were bell peppers, jalapenos, okra, bananas, limes, and squash being grown, among other things. The garden also has compost bins for turning food waste and yard scraps into fertilizer. Flowers are growing throughout the garden to attract beneficial insects and the produce grown here is offered to the residents of the surrounding neighborhood free of charge.

This garden not only provides fresh produce to an area where affordable, healthy food may be hard to come by, but it also creates a community asset for residents to be proud of. The social ties that this garden fosters alongside the knowledge and pride that volunteers gain from working here contribute to increasing this community’s resilience. The green space set aside for the garden stands out among a sea of concrete and asphalt in a highly developed area. This green space provides a place for stormwater to collect and dissipate as well as a place for vegetation to store carbon dioxide and other common air pollutants that threaten both environmental and human health.

More local businesses should be taking advantage of community gardens to improve the health and wellness of their employees as well as their surrounding communities. Additional incentives specifically for businesses having community gardens include appealing to and attracting a wider customer and employee base, beautification of property, possible employee insurance benefits, and simply enhancing the quality of life of the people and neighborhoods around the business. Doing good for the community is good for business as a healthy and prosperous community results in a healthy and prosperous local economy. CG Pics5CG Pics4