With all the hubbub surrounding the food and obesity debate these days, you’d think Americans were subsisting completely on the McDonald’s dollar menu and the Taco Bell taco that’s wrapped in a Dorito.
Actually, that’s not too far from true.
There’s a push in the “green” community for, well, more green – in gardens. That’s nothing new, but what IS new is that people are listening! That may be due to Michelle Obama’s rockin’ decision to put a vegetable garden in the White House, and she looked so great doing it that now everyone else wants to do it, so kudos Mrs. President. Community gardening is cool. Here’s why:
1. Growing your own food is awesome.
Growing your own food is good for you. Vegetables that come out of a garden are far less likely to be laden with trans fats and aspartame, so we’ve got a nutritional bonus already. Most community gardens don’t use pesticides and all the other crazy size-increasing hormone therapies that the big factory farms are using these days, so your produce may not look magazine worthy, but it will assuredly taste better. I personally hate radishes, but when I had my first garden back in like, the 5th grade, radishes were the only thing that grew and I’ll be damned if I didn’t eat every single one and love it because I was the one who grew it. It’s a really gratifying feeling, that, and the whole process is a good life-skill learning event for kids. Happiness and prosperity for all!
2. You can make a new friend.
Besides the more concrete nutritional and skill-teaching benefits of community gardening, there is the social aspect. This is where the “community” part of community gardening comes in. The idea is that it’s a big plot of land divided up among various people, so odds are good that on a nice, cool, evening that you decide to go check on the tomatoes, some other people will be there doing the same thing. Whether you’re looking for love in the zucchini patch or just a new friend to vent to about your hellish day at work because all your current friends are tired of hearing about it, a community garden is a good spot.
Avoid the music-blasting ear buds and you might, you know, get to have a conversation with a nice person you didn’t know before.
3. You will high-five the Earth.
Community gardens are also good for the Earth, seeing as how they typically take a vacant lot and replace it with growing things that will ultimately put nitrogen back into the soil, leaving the area richer in nutrients and more able to do things like make oxygen for you to breathe. Having big patches of dirt and growing things instead of concrete also displaces much of the heat that urban cityscapes can absorb, so you may even lower the temperature by 1/100th of a degree. Additionally, community gardens provide the perfect venue for all of that compost you’re making these days.
4. You will high-five your neighborhood.
I like walking by an empty lot filled with used hypodermic needles and broken liquor bottles as much as the next person, but I’d nearly always prefer to see rows of tomatoes and squash and children frolicking in the strawberries and birds chirping and all that. Community gardens provide a green respite from the concrete eyesore that is many urban neighborhoods, it raises property values, lowers crime rates and the excess produce can be donated to soup kitchens or food pantries. It’s basically your civic DUTY to garden.
5. You can have weeding dance parties.
No one ever said civic duty can’t be fun. The worst part of community gardening, irrefutably, is the amount of weeding necessary to keep it producing steadily. No one enjoys weeding until their fingers bleed or their garden gloves (gloves help) are mangled, but the dance parties help.
Check out this sweet study that tallies up the proven benefits and stats about community gardens for more information.
The illustrious author of this article, Stephanie Huey, is an itinerant writer, sub-letter of apartments and lover of craft beers. Her favorite sentences are those containing syllepsis or ones that mention Vietnamese food, of which is she is inordinately fond.