It takes a village to raise a gardenCommunity gardening can no doubt trace its roots back as far as the “victory gardens” of World War II.
By: Wendy Johnson, Cloquet Pine Journal, Superior Telegram
Moose Lake knows it. Carlton knows it. The Fond du Lac Reservation knows it. Many local senior living facilities know it. Even First Lady Michelle Obama knows it. All have initiated community gardening projects.
Community gardening can no doubt trace its roots back as far as the “victory gardens” of World War II as a means of coping with a flagging economy.
Back in the days of victory gardens, citizens were encouraged to grow gardens on their land to help reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort.
A worthwhile side benefit, however, was that taking part in the victory garden effort helped folks feel empowered by the fact they were able to make a contribution to their own well-being, that of their family and the community as well.
Gone are the days when every house has a plot of land on which to grow a garden, however. Urban development, smaller lot sizes and questionable soil quality make it nearly impossible for many to grow gardens in their own back yards.
But for the increasing number of cities and municipalities that have had the foresight to dedicate land for community gardens, the paybacks have been undeniable.
Community gardens provide public space for residents to enjoy gardening and raise their own food – something that is increasingly essential as budgets are slashed, incomes are eroded and jobs are lost. By signing up for a designated plot in a community garden, people are able to plant and grow their own fresh produce when they don’t have space on their own land.
But when you really think about it, community gardens offer residents far more than the obvious benefits of self sustainability and healthy eating. They also promote a healthier community. Community gardening is a safe, healthy and inexpensive recreational activity for folks of all ages, and it promotes a sense of “community building” as residents get out and share a mutual endeavor with their neighbors.
Depending on the type of location selected, the community garden can also beautify public spaces, revitalize an undeveloped portion of land within the
community and restore natural areas that might otherwise be prone to becoming eyesores.
And just think of the opportunities for learning that community gardening has to offer. Some who may have never gardened before will have a ready source of expertise from those who are seasoned veterans.
A community garden would also make a tremendous outdoor classroom for students, child care groups, scouts, or community education programs.
Granted, getting a community gardening project under way takes some research and a certain degree of expertise, but our local communities are fortunate to have the University of Minnesota Extension Service and the Master Gardeners program at their access.
For Cloquet and the other communities who have not yet gotten started on a community gardening program, the time has most definitely come.
Take a look around and see what open spaces exist that might make a good garden plot. Talk with those in the know. Find out who would be willing to help and/or participate.
Get going … and get growing!
This column was written by Wendy Johnson, publisher of the Cloquet Pine Journal. Contact her at email@example.com