HEALTHY GARDEN PROGRAMMES have come full circle through the years.
I recall many village squares in North Donegal were often places of communal activities – sheep or cattle sales – hens, ducks and geese etc. – including local food vegetable markets.
Over time, technology allowed activities to turn indoors that were formerly carried on out-of-doors.
Now I see these HEALTHY GARDENING PROGRAMMES as a return to a communal activity – carried on within a community, a village or wider rural communities – one that is uniquely adapted to its contemporary environment.
Most community gardens occur on a smaller scale, as opposed to something larger like community supported agriculture programmes.
They typically include the cultivation of seasonable vegetables and flowers, but can also showcase related activities such as bee-keeping, composting, rainwater collection and soil conservation practices.
For both the gardeners and others in community, the garden provides access to fresh produce, education of agricultural and natural processes, connection to an active recreational space, and creation of a community amenity.
The rewards are as much social as they are edible.
I believe Healthy Gardening Programmes supported by HSE West, Donegal VEC and our local Donegal Family Resource Centre provide a creative, outside-the-box solution to address several pressing issues:
1. Public Health – Increasing incidents of obesity among adults and children have led to tremendous burdens on public health, including costs of healthcare
2. Economically Viable Open Space – Community gardens typically are run as NGO’s supported by their members or operated by a group of interested individuals who invest in garden plots. Many welcome visitors into their garden at low or no charge. Sales of plants and produce from the garden can generate revenues that help the garden to be self-sustaining
3. Educational Opportunities-People are increasingly removed from agricultural and natural processes. Community gardens provide awareness of the environment and the science of cultivation, particularly for young people who may be removed from the generations where home gardening was a way-of-life.
4. Social and Recreational Value – Gardening is an active lifestyle that can be embraced by individual of all ages.
BENEFITS & IMPACTS
Community Gardens I believe offer a wide range of benefits including:
Reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by promoting the consumption of locally produced foods.
For example a meal can travel an average of about 13,000 miles before reaching your plate!
Beautified communities (particularly if abandoned lots are used) by transforming unattractive pieces of land into compelling spaces
Less and cleaner storm-water runoff, and decreased surface erosion
Cleaner air by the absorption of greenhouse gases and air pollutants
Critical corridors for preserving local wildlife and supporting migratory species
Improved quality of life by creating opportunities for recreation, social interaction, exercise, and education
Economic development through local food markets
Improved food access (COUNTRY MARKETS – more about this later) under-served communities which often lack supermarkets, and thus, rely heavily on convenience stores or fast-food chains as their primary food source!