Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Community Gardens

Many of our discussions in class have focused on corporate and government responsibility. While changes in corporate and Government policies are necessary to reduce and eliminate hunger it may be a mistake to think that this is where we should start. Many major cultural revolutions have been the result of grass root efforts started in small communities rather than the result of major policy change.

Produce grown in community gardens offers benefits over both growing your own food and buying everything at a supermarket. The majority of people in the United States buy all of their produce at the supermarket. The reasoning being that it is close, cheap, and convenient. Growing food with in the community the benefits of the supermarket being both close and convenient can be pretty much negated. The third benefit to supermarkets, price, is still an issue, however while some produce in the supermarket is cheaper it is rare to find locally grown, organic produce in major supermarket chains. Perhaps the largest benefit to growing locally is the minimization of transportation in the commodity chain. By producing and consuming in a localized area the harmful effects of transportation and storage over long distances are negated.

Another alternative source of produce is personal gardening. This in many areas is a practical and common idea. However it is certainly not universal. It is very difficult for people living in big cities to get land to plant a garden on. For this reason many of the large centers for the community garden movement are found in major cities such as NYC, Boston, and San Francisco. Even in areas where people may have access to the land necessary to plant there own garden it is often more practical to follow the community gardening approach instead. Community gardening offers lower costs, in some cases community gardens have become self sustaining, with profits from selling produce completely off setting the costs. A final convenience of Community Gardens over personal ones is the ability to divide up work. if a family has a personal garden then that family is completely responsible for care, in some cases a time consuming process. For many people their schedule does not permit this, with a community garden their is opportunity for those with more time, i.e. youth or the retired, to do much of the work while those with less time can help in other ways such as financially.

The Capital District has had an active group supporting community gardens since 1975 (http://www.cdcg.org/). Capital District Community Gardens (CDCG) manages 46 gardens around the area, these gardens are tended too by many different groups of people, from High School Students to retired Professionals. In addition to maintaining gardens the group also sponsors classes at local High Schools (including Troy High) and supports food drives and other community based projects.

The next step for organizations like CDCG is to get their food into supermarkets as a replacement for the current imported produce. While this is likely a priority for many community garden oranizations the CDCG seems like a promising place to start considering the major supermarket chain in the area (Price Chopper) started in Scenechtedy and is currently based in Rotterdam.


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