Community Gardens Rejuvenate Milwaukee

Milwaukee boasts more per capita community gardens, farms, and farmers’ markets than any other city in the nation. In addition, the city of about 600,000 boasts numerous “farm-to-table” restaurants. For a city where about 30% of residents live in poverty, this level of access to health, locally grown food is critical to preventing some of the negative health effects associated with poverty and city living.

Gardening is a viable and accessible option for those who wish to eat healthy food but cannot afford to shop at expensive retailers. Access to community gardens in Milwaukee can address some (but not all) of the economic and health inequities associated with inadequate access to healthy, affordable food for low-income residents. To read more about Milwaukee’s urban farming programs, click here.

Community gardens are important for a variety of reasons. First, access to nature and green space are critical to human development. Access to green spaces improves cognitive functions and decreases stress, allowing for a healthier and more productive life. Community gardens further drive community development, social relationships, and increase awareness of other cultures by granting community members greater access to other. In urban environments, access to community and strong social networks is crucial for long-term health. Finally, community gardens are vital to urban environmental resilience and climate adaptation. Community gardens are a carbon sequestration tool and can limit the heat effect in urban environments dominated by concrete and asphalt. The two-fold purpose of their environmental benefit is to decrease global emissions while reducing the effect of climate change on urban residents.

New York, along with many urban environments, maintains a high number of empty lots. These lots are prime candidates for redevelopment as community gardens. Usage of these lots serves environmental, social, and individual health needs while providing examples of how to redefine urban living for a modern era. Milwaukee is already seeing the benefits of urban farming activities – will other cities follow suit?