Go Green Meridian is committed to providing information and resources to empower the Meridian community to make healthy, sustainable life choices.
With a mission to increase awareness, connect the community, support our local farmers and businesses, and create a more sustainable and healthy life for the people of Meridian and surrounding areas, Go Green Meridian is a local chapter of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi (GGSIM), a state-wide educational, networking, and outreach institute in Mississippi growing community around issues of sustainability by identifying sustainable initiatives, connecting those efforts, and expanding on them.
Meridianite Pamela Dees got involved with Go Green Meridian in this past spring. To her, a community garden is important because it brings so many different people from the community together, including the children, who learn about gardening while also enjoying getting their hand dirty with their family.
“There are so many knowledgeable people here who know about the plants or the bamboo teepees,” said Pamela. “Go Green planted and tilled and everything.” The planted area Pamela speaks had been a field of high grass. “They cleared it out and made the beds; the city donated a lot of material and people in the community have donated,” she said. “So the garden has really been a community effort.
Community gardens have been growing in popularity across the nation for quite some time and have provided families who don’t have access to yard or land, the opportunity to produce their own food. In 1999, 15 New York gardens organized as the City Farms program of the group “Just Food.” They grew close to 11,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits and donated approximately half of the harvest to nearby soup kitchens and food pantries.
The non-profit Gardeners in Community Development (GICD)
of Dallas, Texas has made it their mission since 1994 to “grow people” through community gardens.
They have compiled a List of Benefits of Community Gardening, something every community, large or small, should do. That list includes:
Benefits of Community Gardens
- Community gardens increase a sense of community ownership and stewardship.
- Community gardens foster the development of a community identity and spirit.
- Community gardens bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds (age, race, culture, social class).
- Community gardens build community leaders.
- Community gardens offer a focal point for community organizing, and can lead to community-based efforts to deal with other social concerns.
- Community gardens provide opportunities to meet neighbors.
- Community gardens build block clubs (neighborhood associations).
- Community gardens increase eyes on the street.
- Community gardening is recognized by the many police departments as an effective community crime prevention strategy.
- Community gardens offer unique opportunities for new immigrants (who tend to be concentrated in low-income urban communities) to:
– Produce traditional crops otherwise unavailable locally,
– Take advantage of the experience of elders to produce a significant amount of food for the household,
– Provide inter-generational exposure to cultural traditions,
– Offer a cultural exchange with other gardeners,
– Learn about block clubs, neighborhood groups, and other community information.
- Community gardens offer neighborhoods an access point to non-English speaking communities.
- Community gardens allow people from diverse backgrounds to work side-by-side on common goals without speaking the same language.
Community gardens offer unique opportunities to teach youth about:
- Where food comes from
- Practical math skills
- Basic business principles
- The importance of community and stewardship
- Issues of environmental sustainability
- Job and life skills
- Community gardening is a healthy, inexpensive activity for youth that can bring them closer to nature, and allow them to interact with each other in a socially meaningful and physically productive way.
- Many community gardeners, especially those from immigrant communities, take advantage of food production in community gardens to provide a significant source of food and/or income.
- Community gardens allow families and individuals without land of their own the opportunity to produce food.
- Community gardens provide access to nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals.
- Urban agriculture is 3-5 times more productive per acre than traditional large-scale farming!
- Community gardens donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to food pantries and involve people in processes that provide food security and alleviate hunger.
- Studies have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets than do non-gardening families.
- Eating locally produced food reduces asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities.
- Exposure to green space reduces stress and increases a sense of wellness and belonging.
- Increasing the consumption of fresh local produce is one of the best ways to address childhood lead poisoning.
- The benefits of Horticulture Therapy can be and are used to great advantage in community gardens.
- Community gardens add beauty to the community and heighten people’s awareness and appreciation for living things.
- Community gardens filter rainwater, helping to keep lakes, rivers, and groundwater clean.
- Community gardens restore oxygen to the air and help to reduce air pollution.
- Community gardens recycle huge volumes of tree trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, and other organic wastes back into the soil.
- Community gardens provide a place to retreat from the noise and commotion of urban environments.
- Community gardens provide much needed green space in lower-income neighborhoods which typically have access to less green space than do other parts of the community.
- Development and maintenance of garden space is less expensive than that of parkland.
- Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases.
- Community gardens have been shown to actually increase property values in the immediate vicinity where they are located.
Go Green Meridian provides the community with an informative website and facilitates special events and workshops and meets every month to discuss ongoing sustainability initiatives in Meridian and how to better serve the community.
“I’m not from Mississippi and I haven’t had a garden myself and it’s a good way for me to meet people,” said Pamela. Even though we’re all in the community, we stay in our own comfort zones. A community garden presents a good representation of what community can be with the diversity of age, gender, race, culture, social status, everything.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN YOUR COMMUNITY (From United We Serve):
ADOPT A PLOT AND VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME:
Each community garden has unique by-laws and requirements. However, most provide a plot of land and some training in exchange for a time commitment and a small fee. Find the garden near you and get involved. For first time gardeners, a wealth of information is available online.
DONATE HARVESTED FOOD TO LOCAL FOOD BANKS:
Many community gardens provide fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks and churches. Find a local food bank and enlist others in planting a row for the hungry.
WORK WITH SKILLED LEADERS TO ASSIST AT CHILDREN’S OR CLASSROOM GARDENS:
The effects of community gardening are particularly pronounced among low-income children with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteer at an organization or a school garden that specifically targets youth. Once screened, volunteers help in the garden, offer nutrition courses, provide administrative support and more. To connect with the right group, call your local high school or search for community groups like Seattle-based Cultivating Youth.
ORGANIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION PROGRAMS AT YOUR COMMUNITY GARDEN:
Partnerships between local schools and community gardens are blossoming around the country. If you already work at a community garden, consider inviting local students in or running a free workshop over the summer for low-income youth. There are resources and manuaLs available to help design a curriculum.
CREATE A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FOR THE LOCAL COMMUNITY GARDEN:
Sharing successes and identifying best practices will help foster the sense of community at your garden and keep people involved. There are many tactics, both high and low tech, for sharing information. Consider starting a community notebook at your school garden or creating an e-newsletter outlining opportunities for service and issues for advocacy.
HELP WITH GRANT WRITING OR FUNDRAISING ON BEHALF OF THE GARDEN:
Fundraising can pay garden rents, buy new tools, support service projects and keep the garden growing. Online resources can help you navigate the world of private foundations, individual contributors, and old fashioned bake sales.