Vegetablesonbluemat

Despite its reputation, New Jersey is actually called “The Garden State.” George Carlin once poked fun at that, saying, “Sure, if you’re growing smoke stacks, yes.” I live in Jersey, and George is right – well, half right.

Nowadays, believe it or not, community gardens – a very NOT smoke stacks sort of thing – are becoming very popular in the land of the Sopranos.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Harvest Report found over the past two years, Camden, New Jersey residents have expanded community gardening at a faster rate than many cities in the United States.

To be honest, Camden does not have the best reputation. Most people in New Jersey will shudder at its mention. Camden has a lot of crime, so to hear community gardening is popular in Camden is pretty surreal.

Ha! Talk about showing up late to the party my fellow New Jerseyans. I’ve been growing organic tomatoes in garbage for years. Posers!

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found in 2009, Camden gardeners harvested nearly 139,000 servings of fruits and vegetables. This is great news, because today healthy foods, like fresh produce, can be hard to find in urban areas. Big super markets offering a vast array of foods are leaving cities, giving way to smaller convenience stores selling low-cast junk foods.

In 2009, Camden had 80 gardens, but in 2010, the city created 15 new gardens and many of the new gardens are bigger than the existing plots.

A major reason for the growth of community gardens is the decline of the U.S. economy and increasing food prices.

Communal gardens – or maybe just the act of growing something – can be a powerful tool for uniting a community. Some prisons are actually setting up gardens for inmates. And you can do it to, not the jail thing. Go and organize a “rain garden” with your friends. Try it. What else do you have to do?

Image credit: merwing little dear