Above: Lincoln School Community Garden, Sioux Falls.
Photo by: Chris Zdorovtsov
This article was written collaboratively by Chris Zdorovtsov (Former SDSU Extension Community Development Field Specialist) and Kari O’Neill.
What Makes a Community Garden?
Community gardens grow more than vegetables, flowers and herbs. New relationships form, people get physical exercise, and fresh local food can be provided for community members. There are many forms of community gardens. Traditionally, plots are divided and leased to individuals. Other ideas include school or organizational gardens, plots that supply a local food shelf, or plots for demonstrations and classes around horticulture.
Benefits of community gardens include:
- Food production and access allows people without suitable land to grow fresh food. For example people living in apartments or homeowners with shady or small lots.
- Nutrition research indicates that community gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables (Bremer et al, 2003). Currently South Dakotans are not eating enough produce. The Center for Disease control reported that South Dakota adults were last in the nation for vegetable consumption (2009).
- Exercise for gardeners to improve overall physical health.
- Mental health can improve with access to nature, lower stress, and a sense of wellness and belonging.
- Community spirit can be fostered when people from diverse backgrounds interact and share traditions and pride. A garden also becomes an additional asset to the community.
- Environmental improvements may be made to land that was unused before or by adding plant material to a lifeless location.
- Education related to gardening, health, food preservation, and marketing can be taught to youth and adults.
- Income from produce sold or used to offset grocery bills. The National Gardening Association reports that a well-maintained food garden can yield approximately ½ pound of produce/square foot of garden area over the growing season. A 20 x 30 foot (600 ft²) plot can produce an estimated 300 pounds of produce. At in-season market prices of $2/pound, this produce is worth $600 with a return of $530 based on an average investment of $701.
The history of community gardening dates back to 1890 in Detroit. While urban gardening is still popular, rural gardens have become a gathering point for small town residents. Socializing and actually producing a product bring people of all ages together to await the harvest of bountiful treasures.
Community Garden Start-up
- Community Coaching: SDSU Extension provides coaching to teams interested in starting successful community gardens. Provide guidance on garden models, site selection, overcoming challenges, budgeting, applications and guidelines.
- Training: Online webinars and training sessions also offered.
- Workbook: Diggin’ the Dirt, Community Style by SDSU Extension Community Development Field Specialists Kari O’Neill and Chris Zdorovtsov.
- iGrow Articles: View the following iGrow articles for more information on specific community garden topics:
- Starting with a Good Foundation
- Building Interest
- Leadership Team Positions
- Plot Size & Fees
- Types of Plants
- Site Evaluation
- Lease Agreements
- Identifying Needs
- Site Plan
- Budget & Fees
- Liability Insurance
- Garden Rules
- Participation Requirements
- Participant Recruitment
- Opening & Closing Dates
- Site & Soil Development
- Accessibility & Raised Beds
- Theft & Vandalism: Part 1
- Theft & Vandalism: Part 2
- Celebrating Success
- The Impact of Home and Community Gardening In America, National Gardening Association, 2009. 23 Feb. 2013.