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By: Ryan Bourgart  11 July, 2016.

A sense of community, of belonging, is an essential component of being human and being happy. It seems that, in our modern and technological way of living, despite being in constant contact with each other, we seem to be more distant. A community garden may help close the growing gap of isolation, increasing our sense of community. Research has shown that community gardens may help improve physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, and the environment.

Community gardeners are more likely to be healthier. A study in Michigan found that “adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day” than people who don’t participate in community garden activities. Common barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables include cost, availability, and acceptance. A community garden lowers the cost of produce, is closer and therefore more available, which may, in the long run increase acceptance.

Gardening activities are also tested ways to overcome stress. Thirty gardeners performed a stressful task and then were randomly assigned to either outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Both tasks led to a positive mood change, but it deteriorated while reading. A full restored change was reported for those who gardened.

Garden programs also improve interpersonal relationships and community developmentAnother study suggests that garden programs provided opportunities for constructive activities, contributions to the community, and relationship and interpersonal skill development. Community gardens seem to be especially beneficial in impoverished neighborhoods. Community gardens also benefit the environment. They transform urban open space, changing vacant lots overridden with weeds, to a life-enhancing garden. They also help reduce the heat-island effect in cities, increase biodiversity, reduce rain runoff, recycle local organic materials and reduce fossil fuel use from food transport.

We are starting a community garden at the Theosophical Society in Wheaton. We are very grateful to the organization for letting us humble volunteers develop a 20×30 sq. ft. of land. We encourage anyone interested to join us for gardening, potluck, and educational days. Come help us form a great community! You will find out the benefits described above are real from your own experience.

Looking forward to seeing you out there!

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