Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Six Ways to Build a Better Urban Garden

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page and our Organic Transitions page.

From corporate campuses to thousands of schoolyards and backyards across the country, from hospital grounds to the White House lawn, interest in edible gardens has exploded over the last decade. For good reason. Growing our own food, when done by many people, is part of the solution to some of society's most pernicious problems-food safety, diet-related illness epidemics, food waste, food insecurity, disaster response, environmental degradation and even climate change itself.

But are the gardens that are sprouting up throughout our cities and counties built to last?

Many garden programs throughout the country suffer from one or all of the following challenges: insufficient and poorly handled funding resources, ego-driven politics, lack of authentic gardening and farming knowledge, dreamy idealism, and dysfunctional management.

Our research at Grow Your Lunch shows that a garden program can be built and sustained with a relatively modest investment. What these programs need is consistent management combined with expert mentorship.

There's no doubt that the intentions of gardening programs are good at their core. Through gardening, cooking and eating together, communities are unified across social, generational, political and economic differences. In remembering our food traditions, we preserve not only the genetic diversity of our food crops and farm animals, but also the cultural diversity which weaves together the fabric of our heritage as Americans. 

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