Throughout the United States, there is a growing trend in community gardening. Simply put, a community garden is a piece of land gardened by a group of people. These gardens are as diverse as the imagination. While food production is central to many community and allotment gardens, not all have vegetables as a main focus. Many gardens have several different planting elements, and combine plots with such projects as small orchards, herbs and butterfly gardens.
The structure of a community garden can be as diverse as the plants grown in the garden. Some gardens are tended to as a whole by a dedicated group of community members. If food is grown in a garden managed in this style, the food is typically divided among the gardeners, given to local food shelves, or sold at a local market.
Other gardens are divided into clear plots assigned to individuals. These types of gardens are known as allotment gardens. Typically any fruit, vegetables, herbs or flowers grown in allotment style gardens belong to the individual tending that allotment, though they are often encouraged to donate some of that food back to the community.
Besides increasing the food security of a community, these gardens help foster a sense of community, educate people of all ages about the natural environment, and studies have shown they even decrease crime and vandalism. Another common theme all successful community gardens share is structure. Some are organized in a top-down fashion by local government. Others are grassroots organizations run by not-for-profit organizations.
Currently, there are several established community gardens in our area. In Clinton County, the Plattsburgh Community Garden is in its second year. Along with allotment style gardening, there will be a teaching garden where novice gardeners can learn how to grow their own food. This garden will be taught by Cooperative Extension Staff and Master Gardener volunteers.
In Essex County, community gardens are either under way or being planned in Keene, Lake Placid, Westport and Saranac Lake.
Anne Lenox Barlow is the horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; and Franklin County, 483-7403. E-mail your questions to askMG@cornell.edu.