by Matt Green
Moving to New York City from Phoenix brought many shocks to my system. Differences in weather, landscape and transportation were immediately apparent. While having cold weather and being able to ride public transportation were welcome changes, one of the things that I missed most was nature. New York is a concrete jungle, and it was strange not to be able to garden in my backyard like I had once done. As I got to better know the city, I discovered a way to fill that void in my life. New York, and Harlem in particular, is filled with gardens that can be shared by the community.
Visiting gardens has become one of my favorite ways to escape the asphalt and concrete when I need a little break. While exploring the gardens around the city, I found out that these oases provided much more than relaxation for myself: they are important parts of the community and provide sustainable connections within the area. Adults and children alike benefit from gardens, and besides the obvious advantage of providing healthy food for families, these properties are creating new opportunities.
While talking to community members who had plots in these gardens, I heard countless reasons why the gardens were so valuable to the neighborhood. People were better able to express their culture through nature as well as creating beauty in a manmade place. They provide their children with a positive and nurturing environment. Their communities had built relationships with local schools, parks and museums. It was wonderful to see how a place that meant something to me also meant so much to someone else, but for a totally different reason.
I definitely recommend getting involved with a local, or several local, community gardens.
123rd Street Community Garden
Harlem Village Green
Carrie McCracken Community Garden
Harlem Community Farm Share