10 Inspiring Urban Gardens

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Growth industry

Photo: Mike [CC by SA-2.0]/Flickr

One of the more encouraging aspects of the food reform movement is the latest push by urban planners and city dwellers to save neighborhoods from neglect through community gardening. People are realizing that greenspace and the environmental services that plants provide can be just as important to the overall health of a metropolis as its infrastructure. The interest and demand for public growing space is growing across the country. Advocates say that community gardens provide new opportunities for residents to learn and connect with each other and the city around them, while agencies and city planners see them as a way to beat back the entropy that has come to define declining cities, bringing a welcome respite from the concrete jungle.

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Alexandria, Va.

Arcadia Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture based in Alexandria, Va., is located on the grounds of a former plantation owned by President George Washington. The nonprofit has teamed up with the National Trust for Historical Preservation to help bring an end to food deserts in the D.C. region. Meanwhile, kids get an education in raising plants and killing bugs.

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Richardson, Texas

Karen Springs.

Gardening starts with hope for today and the promise of a better future. The faith-based Project Eden broke ground in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, Texas, in 2009 with the goal of feeding people, nourishing souls, and connecting the community. Starting with 16 plots, the garden has since more than doubled in size. Members donate 25 percent of their crop to food pantries, feeding hundreds of people in need of fresh produce in the surrounding area.

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Indianapolis

Ned Brockmeyer.

The city of Indianapolis recently established the Indy Urban Acres, transforming eight acres of undeveloped property into healthy productive land designed to feed hundreds of people in real need of fresh produce, and dedicated to educating people on food literacy at the neighborhood level.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hattie Carthan Community Garden.

Community gardens are volunteer-driven efforts, requiring lots of helping hands. Named after a tireless advocate for greenspace, the Hattie Carthan Community Garden in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood has been keeping alive agricultural skills in one of the most crowded boroughs in New York since 1991.

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Atlanta

Skanska USA.

The Atlanta Mission, along with partner Skanska USA, constructed 24 raised garden beds in downtown Atlanta. The 2.36-acre experiment in urban agriculture grows food for the shelter's kitchen and provides job training to clients to help them transition from the streets into jobs and homes.

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Edmonston, Md.

Richard Anderson/Kaiser Permanente.

The secret to good produce is good soil, and worm poop gets the job done. ECO City Farms aims to change the fresh food landscape in the Chesapeake food shed through sustainable urban farming and agricultural jobs training. Its motto is, "We grow great food, farms and farmers."

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Oakland, Calif.

Oakland Community Gardens.

Often the best part of gardening is the eating. From the look on these kids' faces, they're about to tuck into a really good meal. The city of Oakland operates nine organic community gardens, striving for better access to good food for everyone.

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Chicago

Peterson Garden Project.

The Peterson Garden Project on Chicago's North Side wants to ensure that growing one's own food is a right and not a privilege. Located on the site of an abandoned WWII-era victory garden, the project's goal is to recruit, educate and inspire a new generation of gardeners who want to regain control of their food supply.

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Vancouver, British Columbia

City Farmer.

For more than 30 years, City Farmer in Vancouver, Canada, has been liberating city dwellers from the tyranny of lawns. It educates people about how to plant vegetables, compost their waste and manage their property in an eco-friendly manner. City Farmer also created one of the first websites dedicated to urban agriculture in 1994. It's a great example of the adage, "It's never too early or too late to go green."

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Troy, N.Y.

Capital District Community Gardens.

Post-industrial cities left in the lurch have a future in urban agriculture. The Capital District Community Gardens of upstate New York is one of the oldest and most active organizations in the United States designed to promote healthy local food systems. It operates 47 community gardens in small cities clustered near the Hudson River that help to feed 3,700 members annually with their bounty.