Let’s be honest with each other. It’s never been easier than it is today to stay indoors, to live through your computer, to forget the grass outside your window. To drive to work, to sit at your desk, to return home, and to spend the weekends in front of a TV. When you live in the city, forgetting to “stop and sniff the roses” becomes habit.
That’s why Americans across the country have been making an effort to get their hands dirty. While community gardens are not a new phenomenon, more and more have been sprouting up around the country. Every major city has at least one garden today. Beyond community gardens, citizens have also focused on creating other urban green spaces that city-dwellers can enjoy.
Community gardens and urban green spaces produce more than just vegetables, however. An urban garden strengthens the community; it beautifies the neighborhood; and it provides a reliable and nutritious source of food. A community garden preserves green space; it encourages social interaction in the community; and it connects urban citizens to nature.
In New York, for example, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has started Resident Green Committees which consist of groups of public housing residents who want to improve their neighborhoods and help the environment. These RGCs plant local urban gardens, organize events for their communities, and educate the residents about how to live an environment-friendly lifestyle. Through this program, NYCHA hopes to reduce energy costs, connect the residents to “‘green-collar” jobs, decrease its carbon footprint, and help preserve their public housing. NYCHA is committed to a greener New York and a greater community.
NYCHA’s Resident Greens Committee currently sponsors approximantely 30 community gardens in all five boroughs of New York, and this May they hosted the First Sustainability Conference where members from 20 of the RGCs convened to share ideas, reach out to the community, and ensure resources for the next year.
GreenNet Chicago is a professional network for Chicago’s community garden members. GreenNet increases awareness about community gardens, advocates for environment-friendly management of the city’s other green spaces, provides opportunities for its members to share ideas and projects, and it addresses current issues in urban farming. GreenNet recognizes the importance of Chicago’s green spaces to the city’s future. GreenNet also provides information about how to start your own urban garden, how to get involved in an already established garden, and information about how to “live green.”
Every year GreenNet Chicago hosts a Green & Growing Fair that boasts many vendors, workshops, demonstrations, and family activities that bring together Chicago’s gardeners. GreenNet Chicago has also initiated Growing Forward, a long-term project that helps the community make sure that their gardens will remain resilient, that they are using their resources effectively, and that their gardens are reaching their highest potential.
When citizens set out to start a vegetable patch in their neighborhood, or to plant some flowers in the neglected vacant lot next door, they are often surprised by the crops they harvest from their project. They discover that they’ve grown a stronger community, a safe space for residents, a beautiful park, nutritious and affordable food resources, and a way to save their local environment.