This summer was the first time that I noticed a new type of flyer being posted in certain neighborhoods. The one seen here is a call to action, but not one that you might normally expect. The sign posted on this tree (in front of this beautiful house) is designed to let neighbors know about "Work Days At Your Community Garden". This particular garden that the flyer is referring to is located on York Street, and the grassroots initiative asks that neighbors come together to partake in gardening activities every Saturday.
Not only does a community effort such as this ensure that a neighborhood garden is properly tended, it also helps to introduce people to each other. It's actually a type of block club for those who don't like to attend meetings. In the end, neighbors talk about issues that are of concern, and/or that make them happy to own/rent property nearby. It also offers residents that don't have their own garden a place to get their hands dirty while also being able to grow some vegetables. Often times these community gardens host on-site dinners and activities for neighborhood children.
Community gardens not only attract new residents to a neighborhood, they also increase property values of existing houses. In a city such as Buffalo, gardening of this sort offers different cultural groups a place to plant, till and harvest - gardening is a universal language. In the end, each community garden is a sign unto itself. The gardens broadcast a message of cohesion. They also express the unique character of the residents who toil in the soil. Whenever I pass by a new community garden that has sprung up in the city, I try to imagine the different people who have spent long hours working on it. I look at what has been planted, the various reused elements incorporated to safeguard them, the use of walkways and seating, watering mechanisms, etc. It's amazing what you can learn about a neighborhood just by studying its community garden.
If you've just moved into a neighborhood and are looking to get involved with a project, take a walk around and see if you can locate a community garden. If there isn't one to be found, attend a block club meeting and see if there are others who are interested in starting one. If you don't have a block club, reach out to Grassroots Gardens
and find out where their nearest garden is to you. The organization currently supports 73 community gardens in the city. There's even an application process on their website to start more. Oh... and about that block club. If your neighborhood doesn't have a community garden or a block club, there's work to be done. It's time to get organized and it can be very empowering to start your own grassroots organization (formal or informal).