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by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter’s Green Tonic symposium last week was a great success. Architects, journalist, concerned citizens, students and urban planners turned out  to learn more about urban gardening and how cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and New York have used plants and gardening to transform their landscape. The amazing part to me is that the national urban greening movement is catching on at the same time.  The day after our symposium, the USDA issued a press release announcing that Aug 25-29 would be declared National Community Gardening Week.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today encouraged Americans to connect with the land, the food it grows and their local communities by proclaiming August 23-29, National Community Gardening Week. A community garden is an opportunity to educate everyone about from where food comes, whether that is a Farmers Market or a garden, and is important to increasing generations of healthy eaters. Community gardens can be anywhere whether it is in the country, a city or a suburb. It can be one community plot or can be many individual plots.
“Community gardens provide numerous benefits including opportunities for local food production, resource conservation, and neighborhood beautification,” said Vilsack. “But they also promote family and community interaction and enhance opportunities to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Each of these benefits is something we can and should strive for.”

I love this! Because the press release goes on to explain how “The People’s Garden,” at USDA headquarters has grown 170 lbs of food for the DC Central Kitchen.  (This is a project incredibly similar to Lewis Ginter’s Community Kitchen Garden – except at having donated 4,516 lbs to FeedMore, we are slightly ahead!) The press release goes on to say that the USDA recently incorporated sustainable landscaping on the entire grounds.

And the good news keeps coming:

We may never know if any of these events had anything to do with our urban gardening symposium at Lewis Ginter, but one thing is for sure, alot of us came away from Green Tonic inspired.  In the next few weeks, we’ll have podcasts of the speakers from the symposium so if you missed Green Tonic, you can still be inspired too.

Just as an example, until last week, I had never heard of Biophilic Urban Design — planning for nature friendly communities. But now, I’m a convert. Timothy Beatley, Heinz  Professor of Sustainable Communities at UVA told us about how a building design in Australia incorporating nature (ie fresh air, lots of light, and trees) actually increased the productivity of workers by 10 percent. And added expense of the building was easily paid for in the increased productivity of the employees. Until last week, I had no idea you could transform a city by cleaning it up and planting green things.  Or even that one  city could ever plant a million trees in a lifetime.  But these things are happening, and soon, they’ll happen in Richmond too.

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