Spring is here, and the buzz is urban gardens. Across the country, cities are embracing urban gardening as a means to beautify neighborhoods, raise awareness of where food originates, encourage local healthy eating, and connect communities.
Earlier this week, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak signed an Urban Agricultural ordinance, expanding community gardening practices in Minneapolis. “Minneapolis is once again ahead of lots of other cities,” the mayor told over 400 gatherers, adding the expansion of city gardening is “close to my heart.”
The new City ordinance allows market gardens to sell products for 15 days a year (not more than one day per week), allows construction of hoop houses on residential properties at a maximum height of 6’5” (hoop houses lengthen the growing season), and allows recycled building materials to be used for constructing raised beds and other farming structures.
This is good news to local urban farmers who strongly believe in the potential of connecting community through urban gardening and farming endeavors. Further, economic developers and community minded citizens, believe urban farming has the potential to aid poverty stricken neighborhoods. How could the poorest of Minneapolis neighborhoods improve without costly and infeasible developments? Urban gardeners would point to vacant lots, redefined into community gardens to revitalize, engage and connect community.
In fact, social scientists in a variety of disciplines, have determined the quality of life is heavily influenced by civil engagement and social networks, and not solely by economic status. The broader question naturally becomes, can urban gardens diminish poverty? Can we implement community gardens in our poorest of neighborhoods to help reduce poverty and connect communities?
Local non-profit organization, Gardening Matters, is working to do just that. With the mantra, “Nourishing Neighborhoods, Connecting Communities”, their team tirelessly works to strengthen neighborhoods through offering events, workshops, social gatherings and educational opportunities of interest to community gardeners and urban growers. Through a low cost membership, urban gardeners have access to everything they need to build a community garden, from land acquisition, to seeds and seedlings, to planning timeframes to a community network of others growing their own food. Together, the members come together to support each other in growing, cooking, preserving, and composting their own fresh produce.