Community Gardens: A Growth Spurt Continues
By Judith Jacoby
Community gardens are coming of age in San Diego. Throughout the county residents are eager to put down roots and start gardening.
This is part of a nationwide trend; while community gardens have existed in a variety of forms since the late 1900s, the current trend may have more momentum than at any time since the Victory Gardens of World War II. They are part of a movement driven by a desire to grow and eat local food, to know where our food comes from and how it was produced, and to connect with the communities we live in. When too many elected officials are busy slinging mud and fighting to win the next election, rather than working for the welfare of the country or the very Earth we live on, it is easy to see why citizens want to take charge and play a role in meeting basic needs for sustenance and community.
Community gardens became legal by right in the City of San Diego last month. After a long campaign and some embarrassing cases of high hurdles and costs for some city-supported community garden startups, the City Council and Mayor acted to put changes in the Municipal Code on the fast track. Now community gardens can be developed on residential and commercial property throughout the city without requiring a permit. An agreement or lease with the landowner, whether private or municipal, and adherence to the new code are all the city requires. In other parts of the county, local governments are reviewing their community garden policies as well.
In the last year or two, news of gardens started or under development has come from La Mesa, Serra Mesa, Linda Vista, El Cajon, City Heights, Poway, Southeast San Diego, National City, Imperial Beach, San Elijo, San Carlos, San Marcos, Julian and Vista, as well as from a number of college campuses. Community gardens are appearing at houses of worship, in apartment complexes, at work places, in senior housing and assisted living facilities and now on school properties as joint use school/ community gardens.
Big Apple Gardens
Is this a passing fad or will community gardens become an integral part of San Diego communities?
The American Community Garden Association held its annual conference last month in New York, a city with over 600 gardens, many of which have been around for over 30 years. What makes a community garden last? Edie Stone, Executive Director of Green Thumb, the NYC Parks Department’s Community Gardening Program believes “that community gardening provides unique benefits to its participants that are distinct from the well documented health benefits provided by traditional parks. These benefits are directly linked with community gardening’s ability to provide participants with opportunities to be actively involved in decision making about the use and development of the community garden space.” Community gardens in New York City are true community managed spaces and the Parks Department assists by providing access to basic materials and services such as soil, compost, water, refuse collection and gardening education. It is this model that Stone asserts has made community gardens a permanent fixture in New York City’s landscape.
Garden ClassesIf you are interested in starting a community garden, free classes are being offered around the county, paid for by the Department of Health and Human Services with funding from the Healthy Works grant received last year. A schedule can be found on www.sandiegocommunitygardennetwork.org or on the San Diego Community Gardens Facebook page. Other community garden information can be obtained on these websites or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org .
- 2017 - Master Gardener Association of San Diego County
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