History of Community Gardens

Mayor Hazen Pingree

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.

Fannie Grisom Parsons and New York’s Children’s Garden Movement

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.

A WWII-era poster promoting victory gardens

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.

American Community Gardening Association

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.

2 thoughts on “History of Community Gardens

  1. The history of community gardens is so interesting since its purpose has changed greatly over time. It’s easy for me to forget that these gardens were once a necessity that communities depended on in order to survive. Although there are less communities that depend on gardens to survive, there are still countless benefits that they provide!

  2. Michael and Alexandra. People have become so accustomed to frozen food, microwaveable meals, and processed goods that they don’t think about what they’re missing out on with fresh foods. These gardens are needed today. Especially in areas where people are economically challenged.

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