Ben Orlove, Nada Petrovica, Troy Simpsona, Brian Dowd-Uribec

Landscape and Urban Planning, March 2019


Community gardens are popular in the United States and around the world as a strategy to meet environmental and social goals in urban areas. They have been studied in a variety of contexts including food production, social activities, and urban green infrastructure. This study examines 35 community gardens in East Harlem, New York City, through environmental inventories and semi-structured interviews with gardeners (N = 54). Our study focuses on two topics: (a) key characteristics of the community gardens and perceptions among their members, and (b) associations between environmental and social elements of gardens, and place attachment of gardeners to the gardens. The 35 gardens in this study offer residents an estimated 18,000 square meters of community garden space, approximately half of which is green space. The gardeners show deep attachment to their gardens, as a large majority indicated that the gardens are highly significant to them, increase their neighborhood pride, and reduce stated likelihood of moving. Place attachment is positively correlated with knowing other gardeners and perceiving garden governance as democratic. Attachment is also correlated with a preference for garden produce over store produce and the amount of hardscape in the gardens. Although growing vegetables is meaningful to gardeners, the experience of growing food appears to be more important than the quantity grown. Policy considerations related to simultaneously supporting ecosystem services and social dynamics associated with the gardens are discussed.

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