From an experienced horticulturist point of fiew(20 years of community urban farming in S.Florida), I asum up the Pros and challenges as follows.
1)Urban Farming as a THERAPY:I have been interviewed by the Sun-sentinel back in 2008 and the topic was :Gardening as a THERAPY!People who grow their own food have access to fresh food which supports nutritional health, decreases susceptibility to illnesses and overall reduces the burden on the health care system ,inhancing IMMUNE SYSTEM and offcourse shrinking the doctors and grocery bill by reducing STRESS.
2)Spreading GREEN AWARENESS and SUSTAINABILITY!I have fascilitated classes on Organic Urban Farming at colleges(Palm BeachState College-Green Expo 2011,Cities,Churches,Wellness centers,Firefighters group,Scouts,Homeowners etc..).I am indebted to Natural Awakening Magazine and localharvest.org for their support .You may find out about ongoing classes by visiting:localharvest.org/farms/M20618.Or by checking out the Natural Awakening Magazine-Palm Beach edition"Mark your calender".The community garden has inspired me to reach out for those who want to grow their own food and did not have access for land , just like myself.Swinton Community Garden is the latest community garden I am involved with and it has been a great experience for the last four years and going.Thank you SCG!
I fascilitated Composting classes at the city of Lake Worth from 2010-2011.The composting program was was created to reduce waste especially coming from the kitchen and the GARDEN INTO THE lAND FILL AND RECYCLE IT INSTEAD INTO COMPOST AT THE BACKYARD GARDEN .
3)Community Urban Farming can create GREEN JOBS:I personally MADE A LIVING FROM 2001 TO 2008 from ONE OF MY LARGER COMMUNITY GARDENS and created a network of CSA back then , before it was turned into a LAND FILL in 2009!
Community gardens can be a significant source of food and income for members. This is especially helpful for families and individuals without JOBS or land .
4)Community Gardens are a venue for cultural DIVERSITY and PRODUCTIVE community social interaction between local officials and the public.
Community garden projects give community members the opportunity to work side-by-side, regardless of cultural background ,ethnicity,nationality,religion etc...
Studies show that legal immigrants produced traditional crops that are otherwise unavailable locally.Community gardens does not have a generation gap ,mixing youth and adults together.
Community gardens bring officials and local residents closer.In a recent volunteer work ,two weeks ago ,at the Hollywood community garden project, I met a local commissioner Mr.Pete Hernandez.Upon explaining to him that the soil is lacking nutrients and full of pebbles and debris , he invited me to accompany him to chose a fertile soil which he donated into the garden as a good will gesture to help improve the status of the community garden under construction. Studies have shown that areas with above average green vegetation have less graffiti and littering, and lower crime rates .People caring for their neighborhoods learn how to care about each others from growing their own food to beautifying their community with flowers and greenery.I personally experienced that while volunteering at the Chief Sitting Bull garden in Lake Worth and Carver Community Garden IN Delray.Both gardens do not exist anymore unfortunately!
5)Community gardens can turn neighborhoods infested with crime, into safe communities.They can be a good food source for soup kitchens.I personally donated crops from my community garden to the Caring Kitchen from 2001 till 2008.Giving back to our community through volunteering at community garden and donating crops to soup kitchens help enrich our community spirit and nourish so many who are in dire need for food.
1-Out of 10 community gardens I tended for the last ten years two are still existing while one was available for sale and the other one has already downsized!Many reasons among the short term life of community gardens among which:Sale for developers,repocession by owner,failure of members to maintain the garden,lack of funding ,convert site into landfill,abandonment,etc..
2-Community gardens being used as platforms for political agendas.Some join to boost their community Organization resume references,others to assume and boost a socialist profile,and many just to experiment their green nostalgia then quit after finding out that it takes sweat and gets their hands dirty...