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Finally, a Community Garden in Napa!

Finally, a Community Garden in Napa!

Beets from the writer's Napa garden (photo courtesy of L.T.)

Leona Taylor | Chef's Blade

Recently a much-needed project was undertaken in the community of Napa, CA. In an area that thrives on viticulture and food related tourism, the town had not developed a single community garden. While for profit gardens and farms thrived with tourists basking in the organic glow, Napa was at a loss to develop its own community based garden project. That is, until now.

The American Community Garden Association, or ACGA, defines a community garden as “Any piece of land gardened by a group of people.” In this context the garden takes flight, morphing from one vacant lot to contemporary arts spaces in urban settings. Gardening also becomes transformative, creating community and developing new ways for people to learn and interact. The process of organizing and fundraising for such projects teaches invaluable lessons in politics, agriculture, and entrepreneurialism.

From Napa, CA to Tulsa, OK, community gardens are creating a sense of independence and greater sustainability for future generations. Many of these gardens have historically been in dense urban areas, but are now sprouting in small towns and cities as a reflection of our lack of real connection to the soil. As many renters cannot retain real space to garden, these projects provide a cooperative space in which to dig. Gardens do more than just feed the people who steward them. After-school programs, food banks and shelters, and the mental health community have joined together with such projects to develop rich, tangible, and educational benefits from such endeavors.

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Radishs from the writer's Napa garden (photo courtesy of L.T.)

Each community garden project is governed by its own membership. Planning committees are formed to institute bylaws, obtain funding and insurance, and manage their own mission statements. Determinations are made to establish the purposes and needs of the project as well as who might benefit from this real commodity. Some gardens choose provide food to their members only, while other gardens take the project one step further, selling their crops to reinvest in their garden and further explore the agricultural and entrepreneurial experience.

Regardless of the parameters set by each organization, community garden provide an invaluable tool for building community through hands on education. Children, mothers, fathers, immigrants and the disabled are joined together in a common enterprise, sharing stories and tools along the way. From rooftops in urban settings to green housing models in more rural neighborhoods, the seeds are being sown. To consider joining or starting your own community gardening project consult your local planning commission.