Inch by Inch, Row by Row, Gonna Make This Community Garden Grow
Sustainable Cities Collective has an intriguing post by John Reinhardt about one possible consequence of rising gas prices. While some in the smart growth community have been writing about increased transit ridership as a result of high energy costs, Reinhardt asks whether those costs might “pique interest in community gardens.”
As food prices rise alongside gas prices, Reinhardt notes that some people may be inspired by the benefits of urban gardening (within the context of high energy costs):
- It saves money on food. Some of the gardeners in the Dollar Stretcher community estimate that they save up to $500 per year growing and preserving their own veggies — and eating much better produce at that!
- It saves money on gas. A walk to the balcony or backyard to harvest vegetables saves the gas money spent driving to the grocery store.
- It saves petroleum. By growing locally (and presumably organic), you’ll be eating vegetables that haven’t been produced and transported with large amounts of petroleum. In this way, you’re indirectly reducing the demand for petrol and gas.
Urban community gardens have been rising in popularity over the past decade, as Reinhardt notes in his post. Here in the Lehigh Valley, a community garden initiative has been growing for several years.
SUN*LV, which was formed in 2009, “works with organizations and residents to help support existing community gardens and to assist in the creation of new community gardens in neighborhoods across the Lehigh Valley.” They offer a number of resources through their website, including training, a list of gardens in the Valley, and opportunities to support their efforts.
Community gardening is part of a larger local-food movement. Eating local is known to have many benefits — for the environment, for local economies, and for health. Locally grown produce can be sold and consumed quickly after being harvested, instead of being shipped hundreds of miles and left on shelves or in stockrooms for days. Therefore, there is less of a need to use artificial chemical preservatives. In addition, the elimination of those shipping periods means that, unlike with commercial farms, local produce is not harvested until it is fully grown and ripe, and at the peak of its nutritional potential.
Whether the current rise in gas prices will directly lead to an increase in urban gardening remains to be seen. However, community gardens offer a number of benefits — a rise in popularity of such gardens could be a good thing to come out of a bad situation.