While the concept of community gardening was regularly practiced in Native American culture, the first community garden of the United States was started in the early 1700’s near Winston-Salem, NC. The community gardens we know today, however, came about from the 1893 economic recession. Mayor Hazen Pingree (above) of Detroit initiated a program turning vacant lots into gardens to help feed the starving citizens of his city. Boston and San Francisco soon initiated their own programs. In the early 1900’s, the philanthropist Fannie Griscom Parsons (below) founded and directed the first educational garden for children in DeWitt Clinton Park in Hell’s Kitchen.
During the World Wars, more gardens were started, called victory gardens (below), in order to supplement rations and boost morale. It was during WWI that the term “community garden” first came into use.
During the 1960’s and 70’s, grassroots organizations promoted environmental stewardship and used community gardens as a way of revitalizing urban neighborhoods. This resulted in the founding of the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) (below) in 1978, creating a nationwide network of community gardeners. By the time the 90’s came around, federal funding became scarce and many gardens were lost. Thankfully, they have seen a major uptake in recent history, as more citizens have taken the initiative to build and run community gardens as communities.
I, unfortunately, don’t have as deep of a connection to community gardens as I would like. I have never lived in a community with a garden before moving to Manhattanville College. And, as I showed last week, the garden here has recently lost the participating component of the community is missing, and only the enjoyment component remains, which is less powerful when the garden is not maintained.