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Community Gardens Encourage Capital Growth

By Leslie Manning, 4-H Youth and Community Development Agent - River Valley Extension District

The opportunity for a community garden is available to all constituents in the River Valley Extension District who have self-motivation and community partnership. Whether gardener or partner, each role encourages capital growth within the seven areas of the community capital framework: built, natural, social, political, cultural, human and financial.

Built capital – infrastructure within the communities – is created through grant money. Water lines are buried, sheds are constructed and ground is aerated and fertilized. This built capital will continue to exist with or without future gardeners.

Natural capital, a resource occurring within nature, grows from the seeds and plants purchased by individual gardeners. During routine garden maintenance, social capital blooms when gardeners meet each other. Conversations occur that schedule efficient watering times and synchronize weeding efforts. People develop relationships that provide the glue communities use to stick together. The relationships developed from gardening effects cultural capital.

Cultural capital includes background and heritage, but more importantly this area of capital is about the things we value in our community and what we wish to change. Through social relationships, gardeners find common ground and recognize the values we share with our neighbors. We become a part of a larger ecosystem of citizenship. The citizenship developed through gardening prompts increased political capital.

The partnership required for a garden develops the trust for increased political capital, the fruit of the labor offers incentive for political capital and the relationships provide the confidence in political capital. An indirect result from community gardening is a contributing citizen.

Human capital – ability and skill – expands from growing healthy food and the motivation to eat healthy. The exercise involved in gardening affects health. With the educational programming of master gardeners and River Valley District Horticulture and FACS agents, skills in gardening and preservation are increased.

Gardeners distribute financial capital by purchasing the seeds and plants, complimentary products associated with recipes and items to preserve the harvest. Garden harvest can affect a family budget, which can affect a community’s assistance programs. Also, grant money spent local benefits businesses locally.

A community garden brings value and start-up grants are available. River Valley Extension District is looking for the self-motivated and will help seek partnerships. Call an extension office with any interest.

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