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Photo Album: Community Gardens

Here's a look at just some of the local greenery made possible by the AARP Community Challenge

AARP Community Challenge grants have funded community gardens where residents are asked to plant, weed and water the plants. In return, the harvesters and the hungry can enjoy fresh produce. (Click on the image or links to "visit" the community.)

Bowman, North Dakota

Four long planters and a sign that says Main Street Garden

Photo from the Bowman County Development Corp. (Grantee, 2021 AARP Community Challenge)

An AARP Community Challenge grant helped the Main Street Garden upgrade its location with the addition of accessible seating, an outdoor dining area, flowers, a shade structure and even a hammock. Residents of the small city (population: 1,500) are invited to “pull a weed or two, and enjoy the fresh produce.”  

Hudson, New Hampshire

Women from Burundi pose in a farm field near their new homes in New Hampshire

Photo from the Regenerative Roots Association (Grantee, 2021 AARP Community Challenge)

The ReGen Roots Community Farms program provides land and resources to low-income residents, young entrepreneurs, and refugees living in the area from Zambia and Burundi. By providing opportunities for gardening, the program enables immigrants who previously worked on farms or lived in farming communities to put their existing skills to use by planting culturally familiar foods for their families, selling what they don’t need themselves and learning from other neighbors. The only requirement is that the gardeners donate 10 percent of their peak harvest to the Nashua Children’s Home or Nashua Soup Kitchen.

Clarkson, Georgia

Three men pose in a warehouse where they are building raised-bed planters

Photo from the Lifecycle Building Center (Grantee, 2020 AARP Community Challenge)

Fourteen “Little Free Pantries” and 10 garden beds were built using recycled and salvaged lumber donated by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia. The nonprofit Friends of Refugees stocked the pantries with 1,000 pounds of food.  The raised-bed planters were installed in community gardens. An AARP Community Challenge grant helped the Lifecycle Building Center create the pantries and planters and demonstrate how the construction industry can serve communities and reuse materials.  

Cleveland, Ohio

Wooden planters line an otherwise empty field

Photo from the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (Grantee, 2018 AARP Community Challenge)

After gathering input from the residents of Riverview Tower, an apartment building for low-income older adults, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority created a garden where residents can grow their own vegetables. Built on the site of a decaying volleyball court, the garden has seating, is accessible for people with mobility differences and includes sensory areas where visitors can smell, touch and taste some of what’s grown. In honor of the area’s indigenous people, the space includes climbing infrastructure for a traditional “Three Sisters” garden of corn, beans and squash — crops considered to be inseparable siblings that thrive when grown together. Signage painted by tenants and community partners features welcoming messages.

San Francisco, California

Community members gather around a cauliflower harvest from the Florence Fang Community Garden

Photo from the Florence Fang Asian Community Garden (Grantee, 2018 AARP Community Challenge)

When the Florence Fang Asian Community Garden opened in the Bayview–Hunters Point neighborhood in 2014, the garden focused on serving Asian immigrant elders and filled a need for green space and fresh food. (The community has two freeways cutting through it. In fact, the one-acre farm is located on top of a Caltrain tunnel. The area’s poverty level was double the citywide average.) AARP funds helped expand the garden in 2018, when the fall harvest amassed nearly a ton of produce — more than half of which consisted of impressively large cauliflower (pictured). The garden has since broadened its mission to serve the community’s wider ethnic and intergenerational diversity. The annual harvest, which is shared with local families in need, has increased to four tons of produce.

Phoenix, Arizona

A man plants seeds in a tall, platform planting bed

Photo from the Society of St Vincent de Paul Diocese Phoenix (Grantee, 2020 AARP Community Challenge)

Managed by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul's, the Rob and Malani Walton Urban Farm provides produce for the service organization’s central kitchen, which prepares food boxes and hot meals for people in need. AARP Community Challenge funds helped create waist-high, raised-bed planters. Shade trees and benches were added to better serve the garden’s older volunteers and people with disabilities. When posting pictures on social media of its first plants and harvest, the society used the hashtags #MakeKindnessViral and #AllinThisTogether.

Kenai, Alaska

Four women pose beside a large wooden planter

Photo from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe (Grantee, 2018 AARP Community Challenge)

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe was federally recognized as a sovereign, independent nation in 1971 under the Indian Reorganization Act, as amended for Alaska. Today, more than 1,900 tribal members live across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond. Assisted by funds from AARP, the tribe invested in six raised-bed planters (one pictured at bottom left) for the Dena'ina Wellness Center, an integrated health care facility that provides a full range of medical, dental and behavioral services. The outdoor gardening beds complement the work that is done inside the center’s greenhouse. Signage displays each plant’s Dena’ina name, the term’s translation into English, and information about the plant’s use. Reclaiming, preserving and highlighting the Dena’ina language through the signage helps to educate members and guests about the tribe’s culture and relationship to the land, in which reciprocity and sustainability are valued over extraction. 

Providence, Rhode Island

Several people at work building garden planters

Photo from Amos House (Grantee, 2019 AARP Community Challenge)

The nonprofit Amos House serves people living in poverty and operates a soup kitchen. AARP grant funds helped the organization build a 900-square-foot garden to provide clients and the neighborhood with fresh food and a peaceful outdoor space. Residents of the Amos House shelter program are involved in all aspects of the garden, from harvesting to meal preparation. In the first five months of operation, the garden, which has four raised-bed planters and two raised herb containers, produced food for 15,600 meals, feeding 650 people. 

Lincoln, Nebraska

A man stands beneath a pergola decorated with butterfly art and the words The People's Garden

Photo from NeighborWorks Lincoln (Grantee, 2020 AARP Community Challenge)

Previously a vacant lot in a high crime neighborhood, the location was revitalized in 2019 with the addition of garden boxes, an arbor, signage, lighting and seating. While it was hard to recruit gardeners during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, by mid-year there was more enthusiasm, including from residents of the area's Hispanic, Iraqi and Karen communities. Working with Community Crops, new gardeners were mentored by experienced neighbors. A resident who was initially dismissive of the project acknowledged that the garden improvements had helped people feel safer and made them more willing to talk to their neighbors.

Seattle, Washington

A woman wearing a face mask (due to COVID-19) displays a tray of seedlings

Photo from the Pike Place Market Foundation (Grantee, 2019 AARP Community Challenge)

Expansive waterfront views help make the rooftop Pike Place Market Secret Garden a unique and very different space than the bustling Pike Place Market located below. All produce grown — nearly 500 pounds of herbs and vegetables a year — is donated to the Pike Market Food Bank. The garden also hosts intergenerational activities for residents of the market’s assisted living facility and a childcare center and preschool. AARP funds helped spruce up the spaces with better signage. (The photo of a pandemic-masked gardener holding a tray of seedlings was taken in 2020.) 

Find More Garden Examples in This Free Publication

More About the AARP Community Challenge

Page updated January 2023 

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