Community Gardens: Hot and Under Attack

Community gardens and urban farms could be negatively affected by law changes Is New York City the "greenest" American city? Not if you consider the recent two-steps-back the city and state have taken concerning community gardens. TreeHugger reports on testimony last week that reveals that New York State has weakened rules that were set in 2002 to protect community gardens from development.

If other states and cities follow suit it may threaten to reduce the number of community gardens and urban farms blossoming across the country.

Renters play a major role in these gardening efforts and the positive community development they enrich.
Seattle's community garden in Ballard, the Ballard P-Patch, is one great example. Site coordinator Lindy Sheehan explains that community garden members plant "giving gardens," where one or more rows are planted for the needy. This results in about 2,000 pounds of fresh produce going to Seattle area food banks.

No land to plant? No problem. What about the food growing on untended property? Consider the positive community benefits made by Rick Nahmias's group Food Forward in Los Angeles. The group harvests fruit and nuts from city-owned trees or privately-owned trees. Volunteers pick the food and donate it to charitable organizations that feed the hungry, who typically don't have equal access to fresh fruit. Another benefit is that the donated fruit frees up cash at the nonprofits for purchase of other food staples. If it weren't for groups like Food Forward the food wouldn't be harvested and would rot or attract vermin.

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Considering the large percentage of renters in Seattle and Los Angeles, it's clear that renters are playing a major role in these and similar urban farming initiatives.

But the green gardening revolution isn't limited to just to renters in large cities, either.

Neighbors Kip Mumaw and Brian Falbo decided to grow a community garden this year in the back of the apartment building where they live in Staunton, Va. (population 25,000). The results surprised them. First, they received multiple comments about how the apartment building's garden beautified the corner. Thanks to furniture that they purchased, the community garden also provided a new outdoor gathering place. They decided to give away the garden's excess bounty to anyone in the neighborhood who wanted it, too.

Why invest in a community garden on land that you don't even own? "We just wanted to enjoy fresh vegetables this summer," says Brian Falbo. "But there was so much [produce] that the community involvement just grew from there. It doesn't matter that we're 'just renting'--this is our home, and these are our neighbors."

Mumaw and Falbo's community garden in Staunton, Va., is located behind a neighborhood store, George Bowers Grocery, co-owned by Katie McCaskey.

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