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Community Gardens

Community gardens are dedicated plots of land where residents can grow food or other plants. Garden plots may be funded by private or public funds, and they may be temporary or permanent. Community gardens provide a space for people to grow their own food and for the community to work collaboratively.

Community gardens can increase food access for low-income people by increasing their ability to grow food. Research out of Oregon shows that people who participate in community gardens eat more fruits and vegetables and worry less about running out of food before the end of the month.

Most community gardens have predetermined plots available for adoption by residents interested in tending a plot. There are often conditions that community gardeners must meet to keep their plot. For example, gardeners might be required to tend to their plot twice a week during the growing season. The operating group, such as the city or nonprofit organization providing the land or funding, may determine the rules of the garden.

Implementation Considerations

Community gardens require planning and coordination between private and public resources as well as investments in adequate tools and training. This model is often combined with other models, such as food policy groups, to make implementation easier. Food policy groups can create local policies that encourage the use of open land for gardening or food production. Educational components, such as classes that teach people how to cook and preserve produce, can help people effectively use their garden produce.

Examples of Community Garden Programs

  • Grow Appalachia aims to improve food security in the Appalachian region by increasing citizens' abilities to grow more food. The program started in 2009 with four partner sites and now operates in 31 sites across the region. Each site is operated by a partner organization, and Grow Appalachia provides funding, equipment, and training to help create and manage personal gardens. The program focuses on reaching as many families as possible with its partner organizations. In total, the program has helped over 6,000 families and grown over 3 million pounds of food. Grow Appalachia also encourages plots to donate food to local emergency food resources and connects growers to farmers markets to help growers build marketing and entrepreneurial skills.

Resources to Learn More

Community Food Projects
Funding resource designed to help community food projects, particularly those in low-income communities, achieve self-sufficiency and sustainable food security.
Organization(s): National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; U.S. Department of Agriculture

Community Garden App
Free community garden management software that simplifies and streamlines the administrative tasks associated with operating a community garden.

Community Garden Toolkit
Detailed guide to implementing a community garden.
Organization(s): Louisville Grows
Date: 10/2016