Home Must See ‘Fresh, free and beautiful’: the rise of urban gardening

‘Fresh, free and beautiful’: the rise of urban gardening

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How an urban farms project in Dallas and a fellowship garden in Connecticut are helping their communities

From providing fresh food for the community to regenerating unused spaces, urban food-growing projects have flourished in the US. In Minnesota, fish and green vegetables are farmed in a former brewery by Urban Organics; in New York, Brooklyn Grange grows produce on the roof of its office.

In Dallas, Texas, in an area designated as a food desert, meaning access to fresh fruit and vegetables is difficult, Big Tex urban farms have donated 85,000 servings of fruit and vegetables to the community since 2016.

Developed for and funded by the annual Texas state fair, the project consists of mobile beds in car parks and a hydroponic greenhouse which allow plants to grow without soil.

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The majority of the population in this area relies on small corner stores that do not provide access to quality produce or healthy foods, said Jason Hays, the fairs creative director. Access to modern grocery stores can be inhibited due to pricing, transportation and education. The city tried to lure a large grocer with financial incentives but had no luck.

Access to fresh food options can have a profound effect on the health and wellbeing of individuals, which can transform communities. I believe everyone should have equal access to healthy options as well as education to improve eating habits.

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One recipient, Glenda Cunningham, of the Baylor Scott and White health and wellness centre, praised the projects work. The community looks forward to the Big Tex urban farm delivery each week. The food is fresh, free and beautiful, she said.

Learning about life through gardening

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In Orange, Connecticut, the food production company Watsons fellowship garden has been running for four years. The company grows produce for food banks and had extra space available, so it decided to expand and has opened its garden to a centre helping children with autism spectrum issues.

Christina Cole, 47, a graphic designer at Watson, said: The plot for Milestones Behavioural Services, which includes a pumpkin and melon patch, gives kids with autism and developmental disabilities the chance to not only have fun and be outside, but also learn life skills and take home what they grow and learn to cook with their families. With the garden season kicking in, were getting ready to put in a corn maze.

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According to the Connecticut food bank, one in eight people in the state struggle with hunger. We feel no one should have to think about where their next meal is coming from, Cole said.

The company provides 4,800 plants each year, and those not used are donated to the food bank for use in its gardens.

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Watson hopes the garden will not only help children but also address food insecurity facing older generations. Those who are elderly and on a low income used to get vouchers from the state to access fresh fruit and vegetables, but the programme has been cut due to a lack of funding. With our garden we hope to work with the community and help with such issues. Everyone should have access to food, much less something fresh, Cole said.

She said shops were willing to donate food in West Haven but did not have the resources to do so. Im in the process of trying to organise the logistics of starting runners to help businesses get food to those who need it most. Were hoping it will help reduce food waste in the area.

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Rose Majestic, the executive director of Wheat, which provides food to people in crisis, said: The people who comes to us cant afford fresh produce so Watsons weekly deliveries go a long way in helping them. We hope other businesses that have yards that can be dug up and used for feeding the hungry in our community start to do the same.

Watson is hosting an event in June to try to get local businesses to start their own community food-growing projects. In light of the world nowadays, we should all get back to learning to grow our own food. It is the essential basis for survival. It can only further us all to know how to feed ourselves healthily and its a great help to have an alternative food source for our neighbours.

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