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The Liz Christy Community Garden (Image © Jessica Reeder via Flickr)

With the ever-increasing interest in local food and urban agriculture, it’s easy to understand the growing popularity of community gardens. A new survey from GrowNYC shows that New York City’s community gardens are helping to create more sustainable neighborhoods. Of the gardens surveyed, a whopping 80 percent produce food for their community, 65 percent compost, and 43 partner with at least one school!

Over the last two years, GrowNYC surveyed community gardens across all five boroughs to update the city’s information in OASIS, a comprehensive GIS-based map that allows users to view details about every block and lot in the city. The survey was designed and implemented by Compton Mentor Fellow Mara Gittleman and Open Space Greening Assistant Director Lenny Librizzi. According to the study, there were at least 490 community gardens throughout the city in 2009, and 223 respondents contributed to the results.

Not only do many of New York’s gardens provide fresh produce for lower income neighborhoods, but they also implement sustainable practices like composting and rainwater harvesting. Of the composting gardens, 13 percent accept organic materials from the general public, a service not provided by New York City’s sanitation department. Plus, it benefits the community by eliminating the need to purchase soil and chemical fertilizers.

A third of the gardens employ rainwater catchment systems that capture rain from rooftops and garden structures to water plants and prevent stormwater runoff. About 8 percent of gardens have greenhouses to grow produce year round, and a handful even have composting toilets. Others give back to the community by partnering with local schools or neighborhood groups — nearly half of the gardens work with schools to give kids a hands-on opportunity to learn about food and nature.

To locate your closest community visit OASIS, and to download the complete survey, click here.

+ GrowNYC