Meeting highlights benefits of Ash Grove community garden
- Published: Tuesday, May 5, 2020
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Volunteers in Ash Grove are continuing to work with University of Missouri Extension specialists and city officials on the development of a secure community garden. A planning meeting was held online via Zoom on Friday, May 1 to kick-start the effort and to hear from experts on the topic.
The garden – which will be located on the west side of town inside a fenced area around the city water well – got its start as an idea among members of the 2019 Leadership Ash Grove class.
Kelly McGowan, a horticulture specialist with MU Extension, said her number one piece of advice for a successful community garden is finding a committed local project leader.
"You need a good strong leader that will be their day to day, organizing volunteers, leading workdays, and planning for garden upkeep," said McGowan. "It takes time and hard work but it can also give you purpose and keep you young."
McGowan has worked with several successful community gardens in the Springfield area as well as a few that eventually failed.
Bill McKelvey, an MU Extension associate and author of the community garden toolkit, said it is also important to define the purpose of the community garden.
"Most successful gardens tend to serve multiple needs," said McKelvey. "Some people are in it to garden. Their motivation is to grow some food for themselves and their families. Other folks are more community-minded and so they may be interested in growing food for donation. Some may be more interested in social events and things that community gardens can facilitate."
At this point, the project in Ash Grove appears to be a combination of garden space for rent and garden space to raise produce for the food pantry, senior center and nursing home. Startup costs are going to require some initial sponsors and donations.
"Growing the garden in phases is a good plan. Start small, get some experience, and then expand as interest and volunteer numbers grow," said McKelvey. "But I agree with Kelly. I've seen a lot of gardens succeed with good leaders and I've seen gardens struggle when there's been transition in leadership. So that is key."
Community gardening has the potential to offer a range of benefits to individuals, communities and the environment. Benefits include, but are not limited to, the following.
Food production — community gardens enable people to grow produce for themselves and their communities.
Nutrition — research indicates community gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than nongardening families.
Exercise — gardening requires physical activity and helps improve the overall physical health of gardeners.
Mental health — interacting with plants and nature helps reduce stress and increases a gardeners' sense of wellness and belonging.
Community — community gardens foster a sense of community identity and stewardship among gardeners.
Learning — people of all ages can acquire and share skills and knowledge related to gardening, cooking, nutrition, health, culture, etc.
Youth — community gardens provide a place for youth to explore gardening, nature and community.
Crime prevention — community gardens can help reduce crime.
Property values — some research indicates that property values around community gardens increase faster than property values in similar areas without gardens.
A video of the recent Ash Grove Community Garden committee meeting can be found at https://youtube.com/muextension417. Various documents about planning a community garden are available from MU Extension online at https://extension2.missouri.edu/mp906.
To be added to a list of people interested in the project contact David Burton, county engagement specialist with MU Extension, by phone at (417) 881-8909 or email at [email protected] or contact the Ash Grove City Hall. Additional meetings are planned, work will be needed to get the area ready for planting and an organized project leader is needed.
Writer: David Burton