As I wrote about last week, college and university students are leading the way in the local food movement by not only purchasing local foods, but by getting their schools to do the same.
Groups such as the Real Food Challenge and Farm to College initiatives have gone a long way towards making this happen by working to increase the procurement of real food on college and university campuses.
But, there is another way that students are bringing fresh local produce to both their school and the surrounding communities. This is through the creation of on-campus community gardens.
The benefits of community gardens are numerous. Growing a community garden promotes health and wellness, provides a place for leisure, provides food for those in need, creates wildlife habitats, storm water control or water quality improvement, and provides teaching opportunities.
They also are a great way to develop community and build relationships both on-campus, and with the surrounding neighborhood and residents off-campus.
So it is no surprise that higher education institutions would create them. The AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) estimates that there are over 100 colleges and universities with community gardens on campus.
One of the newest of these on-campus gardens is the Organic Learning Garden that is still under construction at Santa Monica College, in Santa Monica, California that will allow both students and employees the chance to grow their own food.
Others include the University of Portland’s Student Led Unity Garden (SLUG), Rice University in Houston, Texas, that has three community gardens, and the University of Maine, which has community gardens at both of its campuses. The Augusta garden grows flowers that are used around the campus, and the Bangor campus grows an organic vegetable garden.
Even NYU has created a community garden and started the Community Agriculture Club that grows seasonal fruits and vegetables in coldframes in Washington Square Village. They also host other agriculture related events, including talks, sustainable cooking parties, community service days, and film screenings.
Some campuses even have their own produce stands, farmers’ markets and/or CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture).
If you are interested in starting a community garden on your campus, Real Food Challenge has a manual on their site to help you start.