According to the most recent statistics from the National Gardening Association, an estimated 36 million U.S. households (about a third of the country) are participating in food gardening these days, meaning they cultivate their own vegetables, fruit, berries, and/or herbs. Of those who said they planned to grow food in 2009, the year the survey was conducted, over a fifth reported that they would be new to gardening! These figures confirm what many have said—food growing is on the rise. People are returning to the art of agriculture and taking up their trowels in order to enjoy better-tasting produce, save money, and control how their food is raised.
Another encouraging result from the survey: about a million U.S. households—or about 3 percent of the population—are currently growing their food in a community garden, but five times that many are interested in having a plot nearby! We’re glad to hear it. We’ve been building community gardens in Providence for thirty years now, and we aim to continue creating new spaces every year to accommodate even more people.
Growing food in Rhode Island is getting easier and easier. Our Providence Community Growers Network is helping to connect both home and community gardeners to compost, workshops, fellow growers, and other resources they need to be successful. And, thanks to Rhode Island legislators, gardening is now formally sanctioned as an activity! About two weeks ago, Governor Chafee signed H 5707 into law; the act allows “plant agriculture” within all residential zoning districts across the Ocean State. (On a related side note, the city of Chicago is also currently considering an ordinance that would permit the expansion of urban farms in that city.) Why would anyone need to establish that food growing is a right protected by law, you ask? Well, people have actually been threatened with fines or even jail time for having vegetable gardens instead of lawns in some cities (click here to read about one such case in Oak Park, Michigan)!
Thankfully, Rhode Island is moving in a different direction with this progressive policy aimed at supporting local food systems—in fact, it may be the first state to pass such a measure. So kudos to Senator Susan Sosnowski, Representative Eileen Naughton, Governor Chafee, and the Rhode Island Farm Bureau for creating this forward-thinking piece of legislation that enshrines food growing in state law. Let’s hope it inspires even more people to get out there and exercise their rights!
P.S. The key findings of the National Gardening Association survey have been gathered into a charming infographic for you by Mother Nature Network. You can also read the full report by clicking here.