Can we establish 1,000 community gardens and green spaces by the year 2018? This is the goal for Scotts Miracle-Gro Company who initiated GRO1000 along with partners: National Gardening Association (NGA), U.S. Conference of Mayors, Garden Writers Association, Plant a Row for the Hungry, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and Communities in Bloom. To get these gardens growing, winning applicants receive a prize package of $25,000. The prize money from Scotts is comprised of $15,000 cash and $10,000 in-kind products. Because of this opportunity, empty lots are being reclaimed, highways are getting beautified, and parks are better serving their existing communities.
This year Scotts teamed up with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to enhance city-wide initiatives to improve health and well-being through green spaces by increasing community access to locally grown foods. By providing funds and establishing edible gardens in cities with otherwise limited access to local foods, community members are benefiting from the healthful impact as well as the aesthetic improvements.
For the fourth year, NGA joined Scotts at a series of garden establishment events during the spring of 2012. At each event, community members of all ages joined with city officials to tend the gardens and enjoy garden-based activities. A youth gardener award was given at each event to one individual or a group of youth within the community. These young leaders demonstrated leadership and initiative to guide the community toward environmental conservation. Youth gardener award recipients were given a plaque of recognition and a garden container with supplies to contribute to their gardening efforts.
The program highlights below showcase GRO1000 award-winning programs from 2012 that are committed to creating a way for communities to grow together.
Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone (Cleveland, Ohio)
The Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone is a cutting-edge project, which is repurposing 26 acres of vacant, formerly residential land in Cleveland for urban agriculture as part of the city’s “Re-Imagining Cleveland” initiative. The park faces one of the most heavily trafficked thoroughfares on Cleveland’s east side. Elements of the park will include: signage identifying the Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone, a seating area, flowerbeds and other decorative landscaping, and a staging area for a farmer’s market and other special events. In a location of Cleveland once known as “The Forgotten Triangle,” the land is being restored to offer the hub of a local urban agriculture movement and a new, thriving neighborhood economy.
Quesada Gardens Initiative (San Francisco, California)
The Quesada Gardens Initiative is a catalyst for community improvement and sustainability. Formed in 2002 as a result of local citizens wanting change in their community, the Quesada Gardens Initiative is part of a growing network of grassroots building projects in the heart of a diverse and economically challenged neighborhood. The vision for this project is to expand the existing community building project to include a gardening education area and a public gathering space to potentially host food swaps, distribution and vending. These additions will enhance the effort of promoting social cohesion among the diverse community members improving safety, health, economic vitality and beauty.
Upton Edible Garden (Baltimore, Maryland)
The Upton Planning Committee transformed 32 vacant lots in the historic Upton community into raised edible gardening beds to create an educational site where local residents can learn about growing and cooking healthy food. These lots were formally adopted by a community member as part of the “Vacants to Value” program which is designed to reclaim abandoned properties so they add value to the community. The resident-driven nature of this project offers great opportunities to build neighborhood leadership and promote community ties. The Upton neighborhood is significantly distressed and has not experienced a project as devoted to producing local, healthy food as this one. This location will serve as a community garden for individuals, with some beds reserved to service a local soup kitchen and other programs such as the healthy eating program, “Upton’s Kids Cook Healthy.”
I-126/Greystone Boulevard Interchange Beautification Project (Columbia, South Carolina)
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is one of the most successful mid-sized zoos in the United States. Its primary entrance sits just off Greystone Boulevard at I-126, which happens to also be one of the primary gateways into the City of Columbia. City leadership wants to ensure that the interchange is a visually inviting, more prominent and environmentally sound green space. Beautifying this approximately 11,000 square foot space on the interstate will offer teaching opportunities to residents and visitors, who will see firsthand which native plants thrive in the soil, the benefits of composting and other gardening best practices. In addition, a relatively bland, highly trafficked area will become a focal point for residents and visitors. The Riverbanks ComPOOst operation will use the all-natural, composted zoo-animal waste as a soil amendment in the green space. The project hopes to encourage the use of composting through this innovative aspect.
The EDGE Garden at Lindale Park (Corpus Christi, Texas)
The EDGE Garden at Lindale Park is located along a major thoroughfare through Corpus Christi and is utilized primarily by low-income families. City officials, youth, and community volunteers, along with partners of GRO1000 filled and planted 20 raised edible gardening beds in this location providing local residents the opportunity to learn about growing healthy food, rainwater harvesting, composting, native plants and turf management best practices. The garden at Lindale Park will be used to promote healthy living, wellness, and will strengthen ties amongst community members and their connection with nature. Families can cultivate and harvest fruits and vegetables for their own use and share/sell their produce at the community events that take place at the park.
Turn Your Community Green
Do you have a spot in mind within your community that could be better utilized to bring health and wellness to those around you through green spaces? Do you know a youth gardener who is leader in your community? Keep in touch with KidsGardening.org to learn more about GRO1000 and many more grant opportunities. Applications for GRO1000 will be available in the fall so keep your eyes open for a place within your community that could be transformed into a focal point for sustainability.