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Lynne Plambeck: Let's make community gardens a reality

Posted: April 21, 2010 2:30 p.m.
Updated: April 22, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Last week, Michele Obama stopped by a community garden in San Diego to meet the farmers. Her objective in this visit was more than just to encourage the idea of neighbors getting together to grow their own food.

Our first lady has focused her charitable efforts on bringing attention to childhood obesity. The community garden presents an ideal way of reducing this growing social-health problem.

Kids are overweight for several reasons. Gardening provides solutions to many, if not all, these root problems.

One cause of childhood obesity is lack of exercise. A child working in a garden with his or her family will certainly get plenty of exercise.

Another big cause of obesity is diet - not enough greens; too much starch and junk foods. A child who helps to grow their own vegetables is much more likely to eat them.

The availability of fresh, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables is also a major problem in many communities. The local garden or community farm solves it by providing a nearby source that can be organically grown.

Our recent Earth Day Fair provided a great opportunity for all the players in the community-garden effort to meet each other, and they did.

Members of the local garden committee met a master gardener who also had a booth. Several of us had the opportunity to talk to Southern California Edison about the possibility of gardening in Santa Clarita on some of its vacant lots.

Others stopped by our booth to sign up on an interest list, share ideas and tell us about other locations that they thought were suitable throughout the valley.

Community gardens are an excellent form of recreation. Many cities, such as Portland, have placed them under their parks and recreation departments and assign lots for a small fee to cover the cost of water and liability.

Other community gardens may be run by a garden-plot association - similar to a homeowners association - made up of the gardeners, governance used by many gardens in the city of Los Angeles.

The community-garden idea doesn't stop with a conventional plot of land either. People in New York City have started a "rooftop garden" movement for those living in high rises.

Other communities have organized a network of suburban yards where owners are willing to allow others to tend a garden. It helps the owner with maintenance, and the gardener/farmer has a bit of land to till.

Even the art world has gotten into the act with the "Edible Estates" project by Fritz Haeg, a former visiting professor at Claifornia Institure of the Arts. Just do a Google search for to view the transformations of urban lawns throughout the nation into edible and visually pleasing landscapes.

There is a new "slow food" movement, as opposed to fast food, focused on promoting a return to growing our own food in family vegetable gardens.

And lastly, what better place to put all that good compost we are creating with our green-waste recycling than in a local community garden?

If you are interested in this idea, whose time has definitely come, you can contact Barbara Cogswell ( for information on the community group meetings or Laurene Weste for information about a city led effort (

I am told there are other groups out there, too, and hope this column will help connect and nurture those attempting to bring this new idea to fruition in Santa Clarita.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Environmentally Speaking" appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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