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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lots of Community Gardening Research

Research about community gardening is happening on many fronts. Over the last few weeks news and events have come to my attention and I attended a workshop all concerning research on community gardening. The first was a simple notice on the ACGA listserv about a study in England that found that people who have allotment gardens (one of the European versions of community gardens that can be found in England, Sweden and France among other places) and especially seniors tended to be "significantly" healthier than those who did not have allotments. A relatively small study of around 180 subjects but none the less shows the health benefits of increased physical activity and eating fresh produce.

A second notice on the ACGA listserv announced an article that is a review of over 50 research studies over the past 10 years about community gardening in the Journal of Community Practice, a journal of research by and for social workers. 'Review and analysis of the Benefits, Purposes and Motivations Associated with Community Gardening in the United States' by Carrie Draper and Darcy Freedman analyze the research in terms of primary theme and secondary themes. They found that much of the research is qualitative with a dearth of quantitative research.

The Living Concrete/Carrot City exhibit at the New School also has been a forum for public panel discussions. The last in the series which I unfortunately missed was titled Engaging the University in Urban Agriculture. The premise was that much of the research up to this point has come from the land grant/ cooperative extension schools and focused more on the agriculture aspect of community gardening/urban agriculture. The need for a focus on additional liberal arts, social science and design research is clear. There has been some research as was pointed out in the 'Journal of Community Practice' article but there is a need for additional research, in particular qualitative research.

A workshop that I attended last week is the first step in a year long project titled Five Borough Farm: The Future of Farming in New York City that will look in depth at urban agriculture in New York City. A project of the Design Trust for Public Space that embarks on year long research initiatives relating to improving public space in the city. The workshop goal was to get input from practitioners and advocates before the research begins. Community gardening / urban agriculture in New York City is flourishing at the moment but so much is happening so quickly that it is hard to keep track of it all. What are the benefits of all of this activity? Are the outcomes from urban farms, rooftop farms, school and community gardens positive for the neighborhoods and the city? What are the variables we need to look at? Do the outputs justify the inputs? What are the social and political effects of all of this activity? There are many more questions and few answers.

These four publications and events point out how robust the community gardening movement is; much is happening and a lot of research has been done or is in progress to chronicle and measure what it all means.

1 comment:

  1. This was a really great contest and hopefully I can attend the next one. It was alot of fun and I really enjoyed myself..
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