Community activists and gardeners in Springfield are marking the recent passage of a city law to help establish more community gardens on city property.
Activists had been pushing for the law for about two years — and this spring, it passed. It establishes a streamlined process for citizens who want to create a new community garden on vacant, city-owned property. In the past, city officials have asked community gardeners to move off vacant property, only to let those lots become overgrown with weeds or strewn with trash. At the same time, community activists have complained that residents of the poorest Springfield neighborhoods don’t have enough access to affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables. Ibrahim Ali — of the Springfield group, Gardening the Community — says the new city law will help remedy both problems, although he acknowledges that growing vegetables is not a panacea for poor urban nutrition.
“It would take a great number of community gardens to make an impact on the size of Springfield. But community gardens don’t represent just how many actual people are being fed. They have a lot of intrinsic and other values,” he says.
Among those values, he says — helping to clean up blighted neighborhoods, giving young people constructive work to do, and building community spirit. Ali — who’s on the Springfield Food Policy Council — says the new law will help people find empty lots suitable for farming and get city permission to use them. The city will also provide compost for community gardens. In the future, Ali says he’d like to see more investment from the city in the form of water for irrigation and soil preparation.