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By Teresa Glanowski

Planting a garden is an act of hope – a wish made real through dirt and sunshine and hard work – that better things are to come and that we will be there to harvest the bounty. For those who do not have a green thumb but who still want to support turning vacant lots into vibrant gardens, August is National Community Garden Awareness Month. Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, a local organization supporting increased neighborhood engagement, improved food security and revitalized streetscapes, invites you to join in our celebrations this month as we celebrate and sustain our 70 community gardens across the city.

During the nationally acclaimed Garden Walk Buffalo, thousands of visitors have an opportunity to experience residential oases of food, flowers and creative exterior design. What many may not realize is that several of these gardens are also community gardens, created and nurtured by neighbors.

The benefits of community gardening go beyond better property values, stronger neighborhood ties across diverse populations and decreased crime. Studies have shown that community gardeners eat healthier diets than residents of similar gardenless neighborhoods, largely due to these gardeners growing and eating their own vegetables and fruits. Exposure to green space provides respite from urban life and can enhance feelings of connectivity with the neighborhood and with nature.

A garden’s reach can extend even beyond its immediate neighborhood. The Food Bank of Western New York sponsors Zeke’s Garden, named after Grassroots Gardens’ founder, Milton Zeckhauser. This garden supplements food provided by the Food Bank to support healthy eating for those relying on food pantry assistance. Grassroots Gardens also runs the Buffalo Sprouts School Gardens program, which creates a unique opportunity for hands-on learning and the distinctive sense of accomplishment that comes with growing food or flowers. While Grassroots Gardens supports these programs, the real impetus for all 70 gardens comes from the community – from block clubs and community activists who have chosen to turn over a new leaf on their street by growing leafy greens.

There is an old Spanish proverb that states, “more grows in a garden than the gardener sows.” This is exactly what community gardens do on the blocks where vacant spaces are reclaimed and beautified – making more. Community gardens sow hope and grow change in neighborhoods throughout this city.

Take a moment the next time you are driving down a block with a vacant lot and imagine the possibilities. On streets where gardens are thriving take a moment to tip your hat to the dedicated neighbors who took that leap of faith to plant their first seeds for new growth.

Teresa Glanowski is vice president of the board of Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo.