Community gardens are popping up all over the city of Buffalo. I hear about a new one at least once a week. Some are member-driven ventures while others are being constructed as a means to serve neighborhoods with limited or no access to fresh food. Regardless of their objective, there is no denying that community gardens are a vital component to neighborhood revitalization and more importantly, provide communities with fresh, healthy food.
Even Albany gets it. The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets just announced a grant program which provides funding for community gardens in designated urban areas, Buffalo being one them.
“Community gardens are important assets for people who live in our cities, as they provide open space and access to healthy, nutritious food. As New York faces this economic crisis, the ability of Department of Agriculture and Markets to provide support to help garden programs expand is more critical now than ever before,” said Governor David A. Paterson.
Ag Commissioner Hooker said, “More than just providing funding for the organization and operations of community gardens, this program will help improve access to fresh local produce and help New Yorkers reduce their food budgets. During this difficult economy, community gardens can offer a valuable service and product to families in need. I am very pleased to be able to offer assistance to help strengthen these organizations so they can maintain a prominent role in urban neighborhoods throughout the State.”
This one-time grant offering will provide up to $5,000 with no financial match required for capacity building efforts such as leadership development, organizational planning, membership recruitment activities and community programs. With a total of $50,000 available, the Community Garden organization Capacity Building Grant Program will dedicate half of the resources to upstate projects and half to downstate.
Eligible organizations must manage a community garden on public or private lands, have at least ten members, and located in one of the 14 eligible cities with a population of 45,000 people or more. They must also be an existing community garden organization or multiple gardens organizations working in partnership as a coalition. The eligible upstate cities are Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Niagara Falls, Troy, and Binghamton. The eligible downstate cities are New York, Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, and White Plains.
Applications for the Community Garden Organization Capacity Building Grant Program are available by contacting the Department at 1-800-544-4501 or by downloading the form from the Department’s website . Applications will only be accepted between March 4 and May 4, 2009, or until funds are exhausted.
A community garden is a public piece of land worked by an organized group of people, and owned either by a local government or nonprofit organizations. They provide green space in urban areas and encourage food production by providing gardeners a place to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers. Community gardens also provide a sense of community, neighborhood beautification and a unique connection to the environment. There are an estimated 10,000 community gardens within U.S. cities, with more than 1,000 in New York State alone.
The Department of Agriculture and Markets has a community gardens program that assists interested gardeners in accessing public land, coordinates and promotes community gardening and urban agriculture, connects gardeners to resources in their communities, and develops community and school gardening policies and programs. For more information on this grant program and other community gardening programs, please contact the Department of Agriculture and Markets or call 1-800-544-4501.