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Community Gardens Initiative

Old South Baton Rouge (OSBR), a neighborhood located between the Louisiana State University campus and downtown Baton Rouge, has more than 2,300 vacant properties and 900 deteriorating vacant houses. These properties represent 34% of a three square mile area, and have fallen prey to trespass and arson, illegal dumping of noxious chemicals, and criminal activity. This vast number of vacant lands provides little benefit to the community. OSBR also lacks a grocery store or access to fresh produce for residents, creating a food desert. Central to the revitalization efforts outlined in the 2005 OSBR Strategic Plan is supporting opportunities for community beautification, civic engagement, reliable sources of fresh produce, youth development and increase in land value.

APPROACH

In June of 2010, CPEX began its Community Gardens Initiative which includes gardening classes, community garden implementation and youth development. This initiative has been a collaborative effort between CPEX, LSU CUP, student organizations such as the South Garden Project, LSU AgCenter Extension, Baton Rouge Master Gardeners, the South Baton Rouge Civic Association, and local churches and schools.

The Community Gardens Initiative re-imagines a community’s vacant lots by planting a productive garden through the engagement of community groups and stakeholders. Transitioning vacant land back into productive use reduces the environmental issues associated with unmanaged vacant lots, such as blight, noxious toxins and illegal dumping, and the community development issues, such as unwanted uses, lowered property values and lack of physical investment.

People in low-wealth urban communities such as OSBR want, but don’t have access to, fresh produce. Gardens enhance the neighborhood by providing a dedicated space for cultivating vegetables and flowers where the community can come together to learn and work together. Community gardens provide residents of underserved communities the opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables, increasing access and affordability, and help teach children and adults about nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

What Is A Community Garden?

A community garden can be a neighborhood garden or school garden or other type of community space designed for and used by members of that community to grow flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs or other plants.

But, a community garden reaches beyond just a garden. Other benefits include:

  • Beautification. Gardens help improve the aesthetics of a lot, a block and a neighborhood.
  • Food security. Gardens growing vegetables and fruits provide access to fresh produce and at little cost.
  • Engagement. A community garden can provide meeting places for neighbors to meet, to discuss and to learn.
  • Land value. Transforming vacant land into community gardens has the potential to increase land value.

Planting the garden is the easy step. Ensuring that a dedicated individual or group will assume the maintenance of that garden, including watering, weeding, and seasonal re-planting, is one of the most important elements to a successful garden.

Gardens supported by CPEX

New Ark Baptist Church Community Garden
This garden was a collaboration with New Ark Baptist Church, LSU CUP, community members, the South Garden Project, LSU AgCenter Extension and CPEX. In June 2010, the garden was built, and involvement is a continuous process. Over the Fall 2010, a series of seasonal gardening classes were offered at the church and the church community is coming together to expand the garden with another raised bed.

South Baton Rouge Civic Association Community Garden at South Boulevard & 12th Street
This project, built on land owned by a South Baton Rouge Civic Association member, is located on a highly visible corner on South Boulevard and provides after-school activities for neighborhood children a few days per week. A collaboration between the Civic Association, the South Garden Project, a LSU service-learning class and CPEX brought this project to fruition in the Fall 2010.