Greater City Providence

Hope Gardens


Tomato photo by sylvar from Flickr, skyline photo by Jef Nickerson

John Kostrzewa writes in yesterday’s ProJo about bringing community ‘Hope Gardens’ to Rhode Island. He posits them as a way to grow both food and community during these trying times. He proposes that the state and local governments designate public lands (and maybe some private lands could be donated too) throughout the state for community vegetable gardens. The Green Zone blog points out how this is not such a new idea. Rhode Island had wartime and Great Depression era Victory Gardens. See the post on Green Zone for some historical anecdotes and a photo from 1920-1 of a Victory Garden around about where the mall currently is.

Where in Providence would you like to see some Hope Garden’s planted, either temporarily or permanently? Until such time as the economy rebounds, and we can hope to see development on the parcel, I’d like to see one on the so-called Triangular Parcel in Capital Center bounded by Memorial, Steeple, and Exchange.

Via: Providence Daily Dose.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • The Hope Gardens are not a bad idea, but the concept needs some re-thinking in order to be more than just a publicity stunt. Community gardens foster community collaboration, grow healthy food, help the environment and maintain open spaces.

    I’m no expert on community gardens, but with so many active gardens already up and running in cities around the country we should look to the working models. A couple things to note. Though a garden in Capitol Center would be great for raising awareness and kicking off the program, the most effective gardens seem to be those that are within city neighborhoods where people live, eat, and have a sense of community that can be built upon. From there, I can see a lot of opportunity for ‘cross-pollination’ among the neighborhood gardens, so as to build up a citywide sense of community around the gardens. Also, the most effective gardens have an element of common management, but are divided into individual plots so people grow their own food or flowers and have a sense of pride and ownership in what they accomplish.

    The gardens should be permanent. A sense of community has value in good economic times as well as bad. And I see huge benefits, especially in low income neighborhoods of having a permanent source of high quality food, community activity and open space.

  • South Prov and the Elmwood area! Put public garden zones where there are people who really need the food that would be grown. Include workshops on gardening and volunteers to help advise the new gardeners.

  • I’ve heard of places that have urban chicken farming too. Another good food source and an urban farming possibility.

  • There is a little patch full of garbage and unused on the corner of Douglas and Fillmore. Not sure if it is large enough or who owns it (maybe Times Squared Academy). Maybe the school could get involved and there is Chad Brown right down the street.
    There is also unused and littered property right at the beginning of Pleasant Valley Parkway (Elmhurst?) between the backside of Roger Williams Medical Center and the backside of the old Lying in Hospital. That would be large enough and people do walk there and live there.

  • I agree that permanent community gardens are better than portable ones, but also believe that any community garden is better than none community garden.

    Some of the challenges of creating these gardens out of patches full of garbage is the cost of any kind of clean up in order to have decent soil there. Also, bringing in water can be expensive. but some of these old building lots already have a water line there, it just needs to be located and activated.

    Meanwhile: here’s a good article about greening city alley areas.

  • Imagine a city department that coordinated placing gardeners on vacant lots offered by local landowners. In the summers of 1917 and 1918, Providence’s Board of Recreation did just that: thousands of gardens on hundreds of lots in just about every neighborhood of the city.

    For this and other tales of wartime gardens, the Women’s Land Army of America, and how/why to plant a victory garden today, come to Firehouse 13 on May 5 for “Green Zones: From the War Garden to Your Garden.” Starts at 5:30pm; Providence’s first Urban Ag Spring Start Party to follow at 7:30pm. FREE.

    Thanks for starting this thread.

  • I have been trying to find some data that supports the idea that when the economy tanks, the need and drive for people to grow their own food increases, and I have found it–a 19% increase in garden food related purchases and activities this year already. Here’s a white paper on the findings–

    I suppose a grain of salt needs to be taken since the study was supported by the Scotts/Miracle Grow people, but still…

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