The Benefits of Playing In Dirt

One of the things that helped me chose the graduate program that I did, was because there would be a campus garden for me to play in. For me, nutrition and growing food go hand in hand. I feel strongly about eating locally grown produce, so you can imagine that I was pretty excited to have the chance to help out at the garden on my campus. I've been volunteering there for the last year now and can't imagine a more rewarding experience. This summer we started a produce box delivery program for our faculty and it has been a joy to share with our community, the harvest that we worked hard to grow. Beside the initial enjoyment I get out of gardening, listed below are some other perks to having a community garden.

1. Repurposing Empty Plots of Land: Why not use an empty field, or an abandoned neighborhood plot for growing produce?! Not only does it use the land more efficiently, but it creates a beautiful place to come together.

2. Good for the Environment: Pollinators such as bees, birds and butterflies, will benefit from a safe place to live and eat, while helping out the plants and flowers with pollinating. There is less and less land that is left for animals, and although having deer munch on your squash isn't fun, it is nice to provide a safe place for all types of creatures. In addition, gardens can improve air and soil quality, while increasing biodiversity.

3. Offers a Place for Education: Gardens help bring together members of the community that don't have the ability to grow things at home or who have no background in gardening. Offering an open garden for a community’s residents to learn alongside each other is a great opportunity. In addition, community gardens can hold fun events and classes for various topics related to food, nutrition, and the community.

4. Provides Locally Grown Produce: An obvious outcome from having a garden, but still noteworthy, is the produce a garden can provide to the community. Here one can find healthy, locally grown produce that can be significantly cheaper than anything found in a store. One of the many perks of a garden is the ability to help keep the community healthy on a budget, and decreasing food insecurity.

5. A Sense of Respect and Commitment to the Community: A community that comes together to build a community garden will more likely care about their community and its members, which in turn creates a safer and happier atmosphere. Gardens also encourage physical activity. This, in addition to eating from the garden, can improve the overall health of the community's members.

At the very least, members of the community can stop by to stroll through the garden during their lunch break or decide to meet with friends there, which can instill a sense of relaxation and peace for individuals as well as the community.

If you are interested in finding a community garden near you check out the American Community Gardening Association. Can’t find one near you? Start one! Check out Create the Good for tips on how to start a community garden.

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