By Becky Johnson, Executive Director and Master Gardener

As we head into growing season, I have been contemplating designs for the community garden we have planned for the future regional Community Center. We intend to provide a shareable space where regional area residents can learn about horticulture and agriculture, grow food for the Hillsboro Food Pantry, and learn about sustainable plants and healthy ways to mitigate garden pests. We’ll have a greenhouse so that we can garden year-round. We’ll implement container gardening, plot planning, educate about composting, and learn about ways to save water as we grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We’ll experiment with pathways, fencing, and other garden projects.

What Makes a Community Garden Important?

Community gardens provide space to grow fresh, healthy food close to home. Local area residents and children who may not have access to fresh produce will benefit as we grow many types of healthy foods.

But beyond improving food access, community gardens provide the space for powerful neighborhood-level social integration and strong bonds among residents in the outdoors. Social ties are important to the well-being of people in a community since they bring positive health effects and community involvement. These connections help reduce crime, empower residents, and allow residents to feel value in their neighborhood.

People, plants, and animals all benefit from community gardens as they create habitats and improve the ecology of the area. Community gardens help to improve air and soil quality, increase biodiversity of plants and animals, and reduce waste through the use of composting.

Working in a community garden also increases physical activity and relieves stress through garden maintenance activities. Community gardens improve relaxation and dietary habits through education. This all helps to reduce the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

Once we build the future regional community center, we’ll have financial help in seeing the garden come to fruition. AARP’s Community Challenge Grant helps to fund healthy outdoor community spaces. The USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service has also implemented a grant program to help decrease the impact of food deserts in low-income communities by assisting nonprofit organizations in implementing community gardens.

Food For Thought

What would having a community garden mean to you? It could mean a new way to connect with like-minded people. Or, it could be a new learning experience for you or your child. It could be a new outlet to the outdoors. Whatever it may mean to you, can we count on you help us make it happen?