Community gardening is growing- literally.
In Rochester, there are approximately ten operating gardens focused on educating people about growing their own food and providing access to fresh produce missing in urban neighborhoods, not to mention grassroots community garden efforts, where residents teach each other. The CasusingEffects garden located at 739 Jefferson Avenue is one of those green spaces that want to fill the gap between accessible nutrition and the black community.
“That’s always our goal, to spread it through the neighborhood so everyone has their own garden to grow, can their food and create self-sufficiency,” said Tonya Noel co-organizer of CausingEffects. She said she wants to see her community stop relying on the corner store for produce that’s ultimately inadequate and start producing for themselves. The best way to do that is through creating teachable opportunities.
“It is about education.They are so green they just don’t know. We’re excited to teach them what to eat, what not to eat…[That] if you have some dirt, seeds and a milk jug that can turn into your food,” said Kris Walker, another co-organizer of CausingEffects who says neighborhood kids primarily visit the garden. The kids that come to the garden are excited to learn where their food comes from and parents are shocked to learn how much can be produced outside of a store.
“We believe that in order to build resilient urban communities, we must equip each other with the skills and knowledge necessary to create a healthy, localized community food system,” states Seedfolk City Farm’s website. Seedfolk was one of the first community gardening organizations to pop up in the area and in just a few years, their work has grown tremendously, with the group hosting events and workshops.
“Currently, Rochester is ranked the 5th poorest city in the country with approximately 135,000 Rochesterians struggling with food insecurity,” their site continues. “As a result, issues of food access and education are critically important to our organization. In order to bridge the disconnect between the lack of food access in our city with those who need it most, we believe that our communities must transform the way they relate to the food that they eat.”
And it goes past the neighborhood green spaces, many are hoping residents and local adults will consider starting their own gardens at home. A garden at every home might seem like a lofty goal, but there are programs that can help. Those receiving food stamps can purchase seeds and food producing plants using SNAP and organizations like the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE).
But it’s not all about food. Providing calm green spaces in neighborhoods not known for being either is a vital asset to the community. According to Lamar University, these community gardens can immediately increase home values, attract small businesses looking to relocate and even enhance the sense of community.
The JeffSun garden, located at 8 Jefferson Avenue and also operated by CausingEffects, focuses on the beautification of urban spaces. Mainly by planting flowers, residents will be invited to go to the space to read, meditate or just be with nature once it opens. It’s one of the first sunflower gardens in the area.
“This garden is located at the entrance to the west side and is about reclaiming that space, owning that space. It is about beautification of the city and just making it beautiful for the people that live in that community,” said Noel who says emphasis is put on bringing in business to these areas but, rarely on creating inviting spaces for the local residents already there.
Rochester has an abundance of community-led gardening initiatives, each filling their own niche and providing for different sections of the city. If you are interested in learning more about a garden near you visit the City of Rochester website at www.cityofrochester.gov/horticulture/. You can also get information on grant programs, flower swaps and more.