Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, with growing sectors in technology, music, business, and now community gardens.
“They’ve been on the rise for the past 8 years since the city has become supportive of it,” says Sari Albornoz, the Grow Local Program Director at Sustainable Food Center and key contact for the Coalition of Austin Community Gardens (CACG).
Map of Austin Community Gardens
The city support she is referring to is the Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program (SUACG) founded in 2009 to “streamline the process for establishing community gardens and sustainable urban agriculture on city land.” The program claims to be “producing an estimated 100,000 pounds of fresh local, organic produce for Austin residents every year.”
One of these city gardens, the Deep Eddy Community Garden, is over 30 years old, 400 square feet and has a highly selective waitlist to get a plot for gardening. Gardens on city land require a lengthy paperwork process to get made, but represent less than a third of the rising gardens in Austin.
Most of the gardens can be found through the CACG, which works on a broader scope to help start and maintain gardens that are not just city sponsored. They provide panels and sessions to help educate people on how to start a garden.
“Gardens built at a center with a mission do very well,” according to Sari. These gardens include church, school, and neighborhood gardens. While city and neighborhood gardens typically have gardeners grow food for themselves, church and school gardens mostly donate theirs. Schools usually donate the food, but use the gardens as an educational tool according to Sari, while churches may donate the food or host potlucks.
If someone cannot find the time or resources to get a garden made on city land or in their neighborhood, they can use resources like Urban Patchwork, which will send someone to help “turn unused yard space into farmland.”
Sari is not able to pinpoint the exact reason for the rise of community gardens in Austin, but explains how the benefits may be alluring to most people. She classifies them under health, economic, environmental, educational, and community building activities.
According to several studies, Sari says that gardening is considered a physical exercise and that “horticultural therapy” is rising with it. Parents will be happy to hear too that studies have shown that children will be more prone and even excited to eat vegetables when they grow them themselves. Sari says, “It’s something about the kids seeing the process of the plant grow from the beginning and to be able to pull it out of the dirt and eat it.”
Whether these gardens are to make income through farmer’s markets, to create a gathering space for neighbors, to educate on fresh foods, or just being outdoors, community gardens provide sustainable food that anyone can make in their backyard.