New Community Garden Teaches Sustainability, Climate Resiliency

The Cornelius Kos Community/School Garden was constructed in May on the grounds of Congress Elementary School, after the school was approached by the East Hills Council of Neighbors and was given a $5000 grant from the Kos family. Bridget Cheney, Principal at Congress Elementary,  is looking to turn the garden and the school grounds into a community hub that promotes awareness of sustainability. Cheney said that children who learn lessons of sustainability are able to influence the wider community. “Kids are really really good at reminding, being persistent, and just very observant and aware, and if you tell them how this is good, and how the sustainability movement enriches our community, they’re more apt to say that to more than just one or two people,” said Cheney, “they get really excited”.

For those of you thinking about constructing your own garden, rest assured that it can be done for far less than the $5000 that Congress Elementary had to work with. Homeowners could do it for much cheaper, Cheney agreed, especially if scaling down from the dozen plots the Cornelius Kos Community/School Garden contains to something more modest. “It could have been less”, Cheney said, “had we not wanted a fence around it, and the dolomite (gravel layer) was fairly expensive, but we wanted it to be handicap-accessible.”

The garden at Congress Elementary illustrates how local, community based urban agriculture projects can play a part in moderating climate change. Food in the garden is grown organically, without petroleum-based chemical inputs, and has a significantly lower transportation footprint than the commercially-grown produce it displaces. Cheney said that the plot planted by Congress Elementary’s third grade students is projected to provide enough food to distribute to one hundred people. Small-scale benefits in carbon reduction from the dozen garden plots will grow exponentially if  the practice spreads throughout the community, which is Cheney’s hope.

Cheney had some interesting ideas regarding the role of community gardens and urban agriculture as a whole in adapting to climate change. Regarding the increasingly extreme and variable weather that destroyed crops last year led to flooding this spring, Cheney mentioned the role of community gardens in educating the public about the conditions that promote good growing. Cheney also mentioned the potential of small-scale artificial environments to moderate the effects of extreme and/or variable weather: “we can branch out and put a mini greenhouse tent over one (or more ) of the plots, so your growing season is longer, and you can start your seeds sooner and hopefully have better plants from that, because they’re more stable that way, they have a better start, so I think that would be one of the ways to hopefully allows us to adapt to climate change”.

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