What do rooftops in Paris, abandoned lots in Detroit, schools in San Francisco and hotels on Miami Beach all have in common? Urban gardens. These cities have managed to encourage active citizen motivated and small community driven solutions via urban gardening and urban agriculture.
The urban gardening movement is rooted in European history, particularly in the “allotment gardens” given to Europeans living in close proximity. These gardens served as a food supply source, especially during shortages (History of Urban Agriculture). Even during the medieval ages, corrupt monarchs and delegates recognized the crucial role gardening or farming play in a citizen’s survival–to the point that each resident had the right to a plot of land; this highlights a close relationship between gardening and health.
Urban gardening was also a life savor in the United States during the Great Depression (1929-1939). They were called urban relief gardens. There purpose was very clear: to help maintain the mental and physical health of suffering citizens. These relief gardens, also called welfare garden plots, vacant lot gardens, and subsistence gardens, served the same purpose as the potato patches of the 1890’s: they improved the health and spirit of participants by creating feelings of usefulness, productivity, and importance while also providing opportunities for food and work. (Tucker 1993)
The skills of urban gardening gained even further respect during World War II for the creation of victory gardens. These were private at-home vegetable and fruit gardens grown during wartime. They brought about sustenance, hope and community to struggling civilians.
Presently, urban gardening and urban farming seems to bring new growth to weakened cities. It might also offer some relief to climate damage by minimizing waste, cutting down on transportation emissions and renewing interest in the environment. The immediate benefits of urban gardening are the most pronounced within the urban communities. A 2016 study conducted by the US John Hopkins Center affirms urban gardens and urban farms could, “increase social capital, community well-being and civic engagement with the food system” (EcoWatch).