The Growth of Community Gardens and Eco-Friendly Lifestyles
By Annie Wong
In the past few years, the concept and implementation of urban farming and community gardens has sprouted across America, including Berkeley and nearby Oakland. Instead of spending money at grocery stores for organic products, more consumers are shopping at local farmer’s markets as well as picking fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers at local community gardens. Community gardens are harvested lands that produce all types of vegetables and plants and are available for the community to pick as long as they help maintain the land. Not only do the gardens provide easy access to fresh produce, the neighborhoods that are home to the gardens also have a better sense of community, such as decrease in crime and a more conscious awareness of the environment. Community gardens are a valuable addition to residential neighborhoods, but gardens in an urban city are more difficult to establish and maintain.
Community gardens must overcome several obstacles before they can become successful and beneficial to the residents. Space is seldom found in cities, and some people believe that the land is best used for property development. A great health concern for the consumers of the garden is the constant exposure to car pollution and the possible risk of growing produce on contaminated land. In addition, many residents ask themselves whether or not the gardens will meet the needs of the community and if the gardens are efficient in providing enough food for those who need them the most. Community gardens may not be the most effective and most abundant means for providing produce for its residents, but a little can go a long way.
The gardens are not only beneficial to the consumers’ health and education, but also kind toward Mother Nature. Urban agriculture conserves energy, since there is no energy involved in the transportation of food from the farm to our table, and local production allows savings in transportation costs. The cultivation of community gardens improves air quality, promotes biodiversity, and reduces soil erosion. In addition, the fresh produce will be readily available for the consumers at much lower cost than what they pay at grocery stores. Now that fresh fruits are available for consumption, residents are more inclined to go out and buy fresh fruit instead of rummaging through their pantry for potato chips. Other advantages of urban farming include a decrease in obesity, decrease in heart disease, and a mild form of exercise for all ages. Although not all community gardens are successful, Berkeley residents have a lot support from community centers, such as the Ecology Center.
A great resource in the city of Berkeley is The Ecology Center, which, according their website, “promotes environmentally and socially responsible practices through programs that educate, demonstrate, and provide direct services.” According to the Ecology Center, the Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative provides mutual support and common resources in order to protect existing gardens, facilitate the formation of new gardens, and advocate food safety in local schools and neighborhoods. The Collaborative sustains school gardens, nonprofit gardens, community gardens and several other types of gardens that also serve the city. Some of the other projects that the Ecology Center holds are eco-friendly workshops and events throughout the Bay Area, such as a free clinic on a lead poisoning prevention program and the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library seed swap. If you are interested in attending any of their events, you can check out their events at:http://ecologycenter.org/calendar/.
As much as I love leafy greens and juicy fruit, I am too lazy to take the bus to Safeway and too frugal to spend eight meal points on a bag of grapes. But as a student living in the dorms, fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available all over campus and in the dining commons. However, once we have our own place, not only may we be too lazy to cook, we may also be too lazy to go grocery shopping, resulting in constant trips to Chipotle and endless consumption of Cup Noodles. Luckily, the Food Collective is conveniently located across the street from Eshleman Hall. The store carries everything from vegetables and fruit to organic lotion and eco-friendly laundry detergent. The employees are very knowledgeable about their products and are open to answering any questions you have about their products.
Another great way to satisfy your craving for fresh produce is to go to the Berkeley Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The Farmer’s Market is open all year round, rain or shine, and they are all only a short bus ride or walk away from campus. The Saturday Farmers’ Market is located on Center Street at Martin Luther King Jr.Way from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Tuesday Farmer’s Market is located on Derby Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Way from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter. The Thursday Farmer’s Market sells only organic products and is located on Shattuck Avenue at Rose Street from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Other great products that are available at the Farmers’ Markets are fresh baked goods, jams and preserves, fresh squeezed juice, olive oil, goat milk and cheeses, prepared foods, and flowers and plants.
As a Berkeley resident, there are numerous resources that support a friendlier and healthier lifestyle. Whether an individual takes on the responsibility of a community garden or purchases organic produce or goods, the individual will be making a positive impact on our environment. Residents Berkeley community can make small changes to their lifestyle, creating a difference in their health as well as the environment.
About the Author: Annie Wong is a first year intended Public Health major. In her free time, she likes leisurely reading, playing board games, watching movies, and wandering around the Berkeley campus.