Editor’s note: This is the the October installment of a monthly column written by the city of DeKalb’s Citizens’ Environmental Commission that focuses on increased awareness of issues such as promoting projects and ordinance changes involved in recycling, reducing energy consumption, and planting native habitat.
A community garden that thrives is a garden that receives support and participation from a variety of members of the community.
This support includes more than just that of residents but also volunteers, businesses, schools and other local organizations. This type of community collectivity allows us to share resources such as tools, knowledge and experiences.
One of the many benefits of growing your own garden is having the option to spend less money on produce. The cost savings between buying your own seeds or plants compared to shopping at the grocery store is significant.
Although the cost of both fruit and vegetables sometimes varies by weight, a $2 packet of tomato seeds has the potential to produce well more than 100 pounds throughout the season. Of course, saving seeds from your produce for the following year also is an option.
Whether your garden is in your back yard or nearby in your neighborhood, a trip to the garden could help you save on gas as well as reduce amounts of carbon dioxide emissions into Earth’s atmosphere.
Having a garden also allows us the opportunity to support wildlife preservation. By growing a garden, we can create a safe space for a variety of pollinators. Once the plants in your garden begin to grow flowers, these flowers provide pollinators with a source of food in the form of nectar and pollen. So, when you see bees in the garden, bouncing from flower to flower, know that their pollinating allows your flowers to form into full and nutritious vegetables.
Once you harvest your vegetables, their vitamins begin to deteriorate.
Before produce enters the grocery store, it is preserved in refrigerated trucks in order to help maintain its freshness over long distances. During transportation, produce is still at risk of being exposed to things such as air, light and temperature changes, which can contribute to deterioration and fewer nutritional benefits. By the time produce enters the store and then onto the kitchen counter, the initial amount of freshness and nutritional value has decreased.
When harvesting or shopping for local produce, your food not only tastes better, but your body is able to receive more of the fruit’s nutritious benefits.
DeKalb County has more than 15 acres of green space in which members of the community are able to grow fresh produce. There are more than 40 gardens in public areas, at apartment complexes, and even within our educational institutions. There are gardens at both our elementary and middle schools as well as Communiversity Gardens on the east end of Anderson Hall of Northern Illinois University campus.
If you’re considering growing your own garden but you’re not quite sure where to begin, DeKalb County Community Gardens can help you install your own. If you’re not able to have a garden at home, DCCG also offers garden plots for rent in Sycamore, DeKalb and Genoa, which opens opportunities to engage with other members of the community.
Once we open that window to engage with others, we can learn and grow together.
Kyle Moore is a member of the city of DeKalb’s Citizens’ Environmental Commission.