- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
This month Susan Algert, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor, published research that shows gardeners can save money by growing their own vegetables.
“Low-income people in cities may be able to improve their nutrition by eating fresh vegetables grown in community gardens,” said Algert, who works with UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.
To better understand how community gardens affect the affordability and amount of food available, she recruited 10 gardeners in San Jose to weigh the vegetables they harvested from their community gardens during the spring and summer.
The most common crops they grew were tomatoes, squash, green beans, peppers, onions, eggplants and cucumbers.
Algert found that community gardens produced on average 2.55 pounds of food per plant over the four months. For the season, buying the same vegetables at retail prices would have cost $435 more. People saved more money by growing more high-value crops such as tomatoes and peppers that grow vertically and occupy less ground space, she learned.
“We know that community gardens can be an important source of fruits and vegetables for people who don't live near a grocery store or a farmers market,” said Algert. “This study shows that vegetables from community gardens can also be more affordable than buying from a store. That's important to people who live on a low or fixed income.”
The amount of money people save by growing their own vegetables will vary. “Our citizen scientists who worked on this study are all experienced gardeners,” she said, “A novice gardener would likely need training to get the same results.”
Currently Algert is studying the amount of food grown in backyard gardens of low-income families in San Jose.
“It's a wonderful collaboration of nutrition educators, UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisors, UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara University and Sacred Heart/Catholic Charities,” said Algert.
In addition to fresh produce, gardeners get some exercise. “Gardening is an excellent form of physical activity,” said Algert.
The study “Vegetable output and cost savings of community gardens in San Jose, California” is published in the July edition of the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at http://www.andjrnl.org.
The community garden study was conducted in collaboration with the City of San Jose's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department, which manages 18 community gardens on 35 acres of land.
- Posted By: Sandra Willard
- Written by: Eve Hightower, (530) 752-8664, email@example.com
“A sustainable food system is healthy and safe for everyone, including all those who work the land,” said Tom Tomich, director of SAREP. “As SAREP continues to support sustainable agriculture research, we look forward to identifying research opportunities that will improve farmworker conditions.”
California farmworkers face many challenges at work and in their communities. Nearly a quarter of California farmworker families live in poverty, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While farmworkers play a crucial role in feeding Californians, food insecurity is among the many challenges they face daily. Farm work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the state, but nearly 70 percent of California farmworkers have no health insurance, according to a California Institute for Rural Studies report.
SAREP aims to help researchers add context to these numbers by interviewing members of organizations that work with farmworkers and other stakeholders. Participants will be asked to suggest the types of research, education and communication projects they would find most helpful as they work to improve farm laborers’ working and living conditions. The research agenda is scheduled to be completed by September 2012.
“Projects such as this – creating a research agenda with the participation of people who will ultimately use the information for their work – is inspired by the University of California’s land grant mission to serve society,” said Gail Feenstra, SAREP food systems coordinator. “SAREP was founded to help ensure all California agricultural interests, particularly the underserved voices, are supported through scientific research, education and outreach.”
Research regarding California farmworker issues has been conducted, but there is more to do. SAREP aims to assist both researchers and farmworkers by identifying research that workers and community organizations would find most useful.
In addition to identifying research topics, key stakeholders and potential partners and funders, SAREP is forming an advisory committee to guide its farmworker research and outreach efforts.
SAREP provides leadership and support for scientific research and education in agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, conserve natural resources and biodiversity, and enhance the quality of life in the state's communities.
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Media contact: Gail Feenstra, (530) 752-8408, firstname.lastname@example.org.