• Green Iowa AmeriCorps

Community Partner Spotlight: Empowerment Gardens

By Kate Kemper

Over the course of our term, the Des Moines team has developed many new community partners and maintained relationships with existing stakeholders. One of the partners we have been working with is Empowerment Gardens, a community garden managed by the organization Homes 4 My Peeps. H4MP remodels homes in Des Moines while educating, empowering, and organizing homeowners in the community!



About the Garden

Empowerment Gardens is located on land leased by H4MP from the City of Des Moines. In recent years, lack of water access at the site has created a number of problems leading to underutilization of the space. Over the past two months, the Des Moines Green Iowa team has spent time in the Gardens performing various tasks, from weeding raised beds to turning compost bins.  Our goal is to help H4MP revitalize this space, making it a productive urban garden and a popular community gathering space! From the compost bin to potential rain barrel use, Empowerment Gardens has the makings of a sustainable urban growing and learning hub.




Over the next two months, the Des Moines team will continue working at the Gardens and will also be hosting some student groups there! Students from two area schools and summer programs will get to spend time in the garden, learning about pollinators and composting as well as getting their hand dirty and playing in the soil! We hope that these garden field trips will peak environmental interest in these students, which they can take back to their families and the communities in which they live.



For more information on Empowerment Gardens, check out their webpage: http://www.homes4mypeeps.org/gardens/

To volunteer with the Des Moines team at the Gardens, click here: https://www.volunteermatch.org/search/opp2399435.jsp


Community Gardens

Empowerment Gardens is one of many community gardens in the Des Moines area and across the country. Community gardens offer a number of health, economic, and environmental benefits, including:


Neighborhood Impact: Studies have shown that community gardens can increase property values in the immediate surrounding area. Using land for a community garden is much less expensive than managing it as parkland, mostly because the labor is primarily volunteer and is no cost to the city. Community gardens also become a form of ‘neighborhood watch,” which can deter crime and vandalism. People who spend time in community gardens are more likely to interact with their neighbors.


Food Production: People who grow their own produce save significant amounts of money on food, and generally eat healthier than those who do not grow their own produce.


Health: Locally grown food can be eaten fresh without preservatives, because they don’t have to be shipped long distances before consumption. Spending time in natural areas, such as community gardens, has been shown to have stress-relieving impacts and improve productivity.


Physical Wellness: Gardening is considered a moderately intense physical activity and motivates people to stay active for a longer period of time than other forms of exercise.

Education: Community gardens can become outdoor classrooms where youth can learn about caring for plant life, healthy eating, cooperation, and even basic math! Gardens are also perfect places to host cultural and social events, which can add another facet to community education.


Environment: Producing produce locally cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation of food. Less food is wasted as well, because it is in transit for a shorter amount of time. Community gardens also help filter rainwater, decrease runoff, and reduce soil erosion.


Source: http://www.gardeningmatters.org/sites/default/files/Multiple%20Benefits_2012.pdf




How To Find A Garden

There are thousands of community gardens and urban farms across the United States. The American Community Gardening Association has a searchable map of registered community gardens, which you can find here: https://communitygarden.org/find-a-garden/. UrbanFarming.org also has a searchable map for urban farms, which you can find here: http://www.urbanfarming.org/garden-locations.html. You can also reach out to your local neighborhood association to find out if there are any community gardens in your area!




Can’t Find A Community Garden? Start One!

If there doesn’t seem to be a community garden nearby, you can start one yourself! Here are some first steps toward founding your own community garden:


Organize a Meeting: Invite neighbors, local organizations, and building superintendents- anyone you think might be interested in participating in the community garden! From there, you can form a committee to handle specific aspects of research and planning.


Identify Resources: What skills and resources already exist within the community? Who can help find potential locations for the garden? Who already has gardening experience? Think about who in the community might be interested in sponsoring the garden through donations of tools, seeds, and money.


Choose a Site: If there’s a favorable vacant lot (favorable= gets a good amount of sunlight, has water access, and has quality soil) find out who owns it! Contact them and see if they would be willing to lease the land and what sort of agreement can be made.


For more tips on starting your own community garden, click here:

https://communitygarden.org/resources/10-steps-to-starting-a-community-garden/

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