Obama Calls Americans to Community Gardening

Starting a new community garden takes a bit of work. (Photo: jeffschuler [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

The Obama administration has launched the United We Serve campaign that will run throughout the summer beginning today, June 22, and ending on Sept. 11, a day President Obama refers to as a “national day of service and remembrance.”

In a video message to Americans, the president tells us that his administration is working to put us on the road to economic recovery, but the government can’t do it alone. He calls on everyone to help by volunteering significantly this summer.

To help jumpstart the volunteer initiatives, there are several volunteer toolkits on serve.gov, the website home of United We Serve. These toolkits give volunteers the basics to plan and implement volunteer service projects in several areas. One of those areas is community gardens.

Under the heading of Energy and Environment: Expand Access to Healthy Local Food, serve.gov offers some facts about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables:

  • In 2007, only 21.4 percent of high school students reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times daily during the past seven days.
  • Community gardens provide access to traditional produce or nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals.
  • In 1999, fifteen New York gardens that organized as the City Farms program of the group “Just Food” grew close to 11,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits. Nearly 50 percent was donated to nearby soup kitchens and food pantries.

The specific information on why building a community garden is there, but the specific information on how to build one is minimal on the site. The website leads those interested to a “getting started” page that similar for many of their toolkits. The getting started page suggests that volunteers first look for an existing opportunity in their community, and if one does not exist, it then suggests starting a “well-organized” one.

Great advice, but starting something like a community garden is a daunting task. Specific information is needed. The website provides one source, but there are many great sources of information on community gardening available. Here are some that would be very helpful to those who want to investigate starting a community garden further.

Communitygarden.org – The American Community Gardening Association has links to dozens of resources on community gardening. It also has a page dedicated to information on starting a community garden, including a downloadable pamphlet in PDF format with the information.

Foodshare.ca – Food Share offered a Community Gardening 101 workshop a few years back, and now the resources for that workshop are archived on its website. The archives have readings and resources for getting started, growing the group, getting in the ground, and fundraising.
Food Share also has also published the book How Does Our Garden Grow? A Guide to Community Garden Success by Laura Berman.

The Wasatch Community Gardens organization out of Utah has had a successful community gardening program for 20 years. Their handbook From Neglected Gardens to Community Gardens is available in PDF format and has a wealth of information.

Edited: I originally did not see the link on the page to Community Garden.org on the United We Serve page - it is there, but somehow I overlooked it on first view.