Community Gardens: Grow With Neighbors

published on 01 November 2021

Community Gardens in America

F.O.O.T Nonprofit community garden plots in Hampton, Virginia.
F.O.O.T Nonprofit community garden plots in Hampton, Virginia.

A recap from our CEO, Kayla Birdsong, from her time at the American Community Gardening Association Conference: 

Do you know how many Americans garden? Over 35% of Americans garden, with the average plot size of 600 square feet. That’s an incredible amount of land and food, growing. But what about folks who don’t have access to land or prefer to grow in a community? Community gardens can be the answer!  Community gardens provide an opportunity for residents without yards, whose yards don’t get enough sun, or who prefer to grow food in the community, among many other reasons.

Here in Denver, CO, we are very spoiled with nearly 200 community gardens in the metro area. Recently, I had the chance to tour another town that has done a great job with their community gardens: Hampton, Virginia.

Recapping the American Community Gardening Association Conference

I had the honor of presenting at a conference this September in Hampton, VA. The American Community Gardening Association’s annual conference brings together community gardeners and leaders in horticulture, food access, seed saving, and more. The conference featured a “community garden tour” around the area. We visited a handful of gardens in full bloom and saw what makes each of them unique. Community gardeners reading this will be thrilled to know that we got to look inside all their tool sheds. We also got to ask questions like how they get their water, how they communicate between gardeners, and so on. One garden harvests rainwater from the top of their shed and allows gardeners to water their plots with it - brilliant!

Rain barrels at a community garden.
Rain barrels at a community garden.

The conference reminded me, yet again, of the transformational aspect of growing food, and how many pieces of our lives it touches. In just a couple of days, I saw what growing food can mean to different people. What I heard repeated the most was how much community gardeners are encouraged by each other and how much they learn. Stepping into a community garden is like seeing teamwork displayed right in front of you.

Highlighting F.O.O.T Nonprofit Community Garden

F.O.O.T. nonprofit community learning garden was the most innovative of those we visited. Their therapeutic community gardens that serve as an educational space for local families are open to the community. The gardens are tended to by the students who learn food production and entrepreneurship through hot sauce. Yes, hot sauce! The kids learn to grow the produce, make the hot sauce, and learn business skills through the project. The kids created a promotional video to drive sales. Yet another example of the power that food has, especially when it’s created by us community members getting our hands in the dirt!

The conference provided a great way to get connected with individual gardeners, community garden leaders, universities, and organizations all working on food access, food justice, and hunger relief. Fresh Food Connect hopes to attend this conference in future years as we continue to broaden our network. By the end of the conference, I was being called “the app lady”, which I’ll take as a win.

Taking Action with Fresh Food Connect

Fresh Food Connect’s use of technology is on the cutting edge of the homegrown food movement in the US. We are working to harness the generosity of individuals and connect their lovingly grown food with hunger relief organizations in their neighborhoods. Tech makes this easy, convenient, and fun through our app. We know Fresh Food Connect’s approach will lead to a transformational movement across the country. I am inspired by the potential impact our approach can have on our food system and systemic hunger. Watching gardeners on the ground work so hard to grow and harvest beautiful produce to share motivates me every day.

Let’s get growing! If you are a gardener, download the Fresh Food Connect app today!

Interested in partnering with us to secure more produce in your area? Please start by filling out our interest form. We hope you will join the growing list of 50+ operator partners that we are working with to fight food insecurity.

Community gardens are a great way to grow hard to find and culturally relevant foods!
Community gardens are a great way to grow hard to find and culturally relevant foods!

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