Gardening in the Community

Community gardening is a great way to engage people through a variety of ways – educating adults and children about the benefits of eating fresh and local produce, growing and consuming low cost foods or as a means to gathering socially and sharing in the passion for getting one’s hands dirty and working with the Earth.  Read more below about the Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network’s (A-COAN) efforts to support gardening in our community.

Gardening in Action – ARHA at Hopkins and Tancil Courts 

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In 2010, A-COAN partnered with the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA) to set up 16 garden plots for adult residents and a children’s garden just outside of the Ruby Tucker Center at Hopkins and Tancil Court. The gardens offered residents an opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables.   Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) master gardeners provide gardening education for adults and host a children’s program on gardening.  Local chefs – Beth Donnelly of the Regal Food Company and Will Eartley – offered cooking classes using produce straight from the garden!  Through this garden, residents have increased their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, lowered their grocery bills, felt they were getting good physical exercise, and meeting more of their neighbors – the power of a garden!

In 2011, we expanded our partnership to include the Reading Connection, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk children and families by helping them create and sustain literacy-rich environments and motivation for reading.  Each week Reading Connection volunteers read aloud to children each week.  Once a month one of the read alouds with children focuses on healthy eating or active living.  The Reading Connection also offers quarterly workshops that help parents encourage reading and literacy development.  

Community Gardening Workshops 

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We heard from you and we listened!  At the request of many Alexandria and Arlington nonprofits, congregations, low-income housing providers, and other community organizations, A-COAN and VCE offered a workshop, “Building Communities through Gardening – A Workshop for Community Organizations Interested in Gardens” in October 2011.  The purpose of the workshop was to provide training and insight on how to start and manage a garden, including strategies in securing its sustainability. 

For the past two years, A-COAN has awarded mini-grants to community organizations will be starting a new garden or expanding an existing garden.  They will also be incorporating nutrition or and gardening information for gardening participants with support from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Master Food and Master Gardener Volunteers.

Congratulations to our 2013 grantees!

  • Alexandria Arlington Coalition for the Homeless
  • ARHA Ruby Tucker Center
  • ARHA Montgomery Learning Center
  • Fairlington Preschool
  • Friends of the Guest House
  • Grace Episcopal Church

Interested in starting a garden?  Here are some resources to get you started.