What Do Gardens Bring to Urban Ecosystems?

“A healthy community requires healthy soil.” This theory spurred a group of researchers, community garden practitioners and farmers to leap into the opportunities and challenges of urban farming. Their hard work may stress how urban soil could be a human and ecological fitness resource.

Researcher and biologist, Jennifer Nicklay says: “We can benefit from how we manage the environment. Clean water, clean air, and agriculture benefit us, our waterways, and wildlife. We put a value on crop yield, which is all well and good. But in urban Ag, we’re in such proximity to other humans. The other benefits become really important to think of as a whole.”

Land permanence for everybody in urban environment is a dare. A rent may expire, city plan may prevent permanent plantings, or tax burden may not be manageable. Speaking on this, Nicklay says:  “When you don’t know how long you’ll be there, it’s hard to invest in long-term solutions. All the growers’ value land tenure and land access.”

The panel is comparing the results with another urban farm of University of St. Thomas. Furthermore they are having a comparison of urban age plots and urban green spaces for example as parks. The conclusions will provide knowledge on urban Ag’s environment services: changes to bacteria and insect populations, soil fertility,  emissions and water quality. Researchers also calculate different growing practices of each urban plot.

Nicklay emphasizes: “These regular, repeated interactions—in ways that are both related and not related to the project—are really; really important. It allows us to honor grower and community knowledge in all aspects of our work, from generating questions to designing methods to analyzing data. When something hasn’t gone well, they tell me. We’re able to work through it. We’re getting so much from the farmers. We want to give back and answer community questions. We make sure people know we’re here and invested in their success.”

Nicklay further ads: “We need local, data-driven evaluation of these ecosystem services to complement our narratives and experiments in order to maximize land use strategies. Already, we’re thinking to the future. We know that there are innumerable community and home gardens in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and we want to figure out how to capture the impacts they are having. We can help researchers, growers, communities, and policymakers understand the potential impacts of urban agriculture at this larger scale.”