A few months ago our family and a family of friends became proud renters of a community garden patch. It is a 15x15 feet piece of land that is owned and managed by the City of Greeley. Patches like ours are rented out to gardeners at an annual rate of $25. Originally the land was owned by the University of Northern Colorado, but since they had no use for it, the University donated the land to the Community Gardens project.
"In 2007, the city of Greeley, along with Steps to a Healthier Weld County, recruited a group of interested residents and formed the Community Gardening Advisory Committee. The goal of this group was to encourage families and individuals to enhance their health by growing their own food and getting outside to get exercise in the process." You can read more about this project here: http://www.greeleytribune.com/article/20080309/FEATURES/8554907
There used to be two sites with garden lots. Our patch is located on a site that is in very close proximity to the university and in walking distance from our home. There are 22 patches on the site. The program has become so popular that a third site was added this year. The new site has even bigger patches with drip irrigation, but we'd have to drive to get there.
I don't know if you have ever visited Germany. The idea of small community gardens is not new to me. In Germany they are called Schrebergarten or Lauben and have been around since the late 19th Century. When traveling Germany by train, you may notice large green parcels of land surrounding most towns and cities. On closer inspection, you'll see that the land is divided into many little lots, separated by fences. Many of the lots may even have a small cabin or structure on them.
The original concept was invented by school principal Ernst Hausschild in 1864. Together with his friend doctor Moritz Schreber, Hauschild promoted the idea that children, especially poor city kids, should grow up closer to nature and get more exercise. During the economic crisis of the 1930s the community garden idea really took off in Germany, and many lots were given to poor families, so they could grow their own food and be saved from starvation. During WWI and WWII the little garden patches became important food sources for starving Germans. As many big cities lay in ruins after WWII garden plots with shelters gained in popularity as housing units.
If you ever visit Berlin make sure to visit the large garden communities, Laubenpieper colonies, in various neighborhoods of the city. Laubenpieper is the name for the people who rent the lots. http://http//www.morgenpost.de/printarchiv/familie/article1164166/Schrebergaerten_als_Ackerland.html Am I going totally off topic here? Maybe not. The idea behind the new community gardens project in Greeley is not so different really. With so many obese kids these days, kids who spend countless hours playing Nintendo or watching TV, having a green garden patch seems like a really good idea.
Also considering the current economic crises, interest in vegetable gardening is booming. Have you been to your local gardening center lately? They seem packed these days. More and more people are thinking about growing their own food to save on grocery bills.
Luckily our two families are not in financial distress, and we are thankful that we don't have slave away on our small lot with empty stomachs. The main reason our families decided to rent a garden patch is to grow healthy organic food and teach the children about gardening in the process. We have had a small vegetable garden by the side of our house for years. We grow tomatoes, basil, herbs, squash, and salad greens in the spring and fall. But it's not very big and this year the dads had the great idea of growing a Three Sisters Garden. Since this post is already quite lengthy I will safe that topic for another day...