By Susan Farrar
Interest in community gardening continues to grow as gardens crop up in all sorts of green spaces. Metro Atlanta is now home to approximately 175 community gardens. Our neighbors in Clarkston, Decatur, and Dunwoody have them. So far, though, community gardening doesn’t seem to have taken root in Tucker. But that’s about to change.
If you aren’t familiar with community gardens, they are “gardens on non-residential land in which multiple gardeners participate in growing vegetables and other plants. Commonly, gardeners each have control of a small bed within the larger garden, which they can plant however they choose. In this way, a community garden is both a collective and individual effort.” (Andrew Walter, “A Pattern Language for Community Gardens”)
Community gardens deliver numerous benefits. According to the American Community Gardening Association, a community garden:
- Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
- Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
- Stimulates social interaction
- Encourages self-reliance
- Beautifies neighborhoods
- Produces nutritious food
- Reduces family food budgets
- Conserves resources
- Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
- Reduces crime
- Preserves green space
- Creates income opportunities and economic development
- Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
- Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections
In February of 2009, a group of neighbors submitted a proposal to the DeKalb County Parks and Recreation Department to start a community garden in Henderson Park, on the parcel of land adjacent to the soccer fields. Within days of proposal submission, we learned that the parcel is subject to the master plan process. As a result, our project was put on hold, at least until the county could put the contract out to bid and select a landscape architect. That occurred in late summer/early fall when jB+a, Inc. was selected to complete the master plan. During the first public meeting, on December 2, 2009, jB+a presented aerial photos, a topographical survey, and a site analysis, and community members provided input. On January 20, 2010, at the second public meeting, jB+a presented two master plan options, both including a community garden.
Also in January of 2010, in response to multiple requests for park-based community gardens, the DeKalb County Natural Resources Management Office (NRMO) is launching its community garden program, which enables garden groups to set up community gardens in DeKalb parks and sets forth uniform guidelines for them to follow.
We are still in the planning stage, working with DeKalb County (through the master plan process and the NRMO permit process) and other organizations to get our Henderson Park Community Garden started. There’s a lot to do — establishing guidelines, applying for the permit and a water service account, designing the garden area and plots, obtaining materials, raising funds, and reaching out to potential plot-holders, donors, volunteers, and other community members — and we could use your help. If you’d like to be part of the Henderson Park Community Garden, please contact me at [phone] or [email].