ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) and the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) formed an alliance to support public gardens and their partners engaging in urban agriculture. This partnership, dubbed the Urban Agriculture Resilience Program (UARP), aims to strengthen collaborations, promote resilience and gather best practices from across the United States.
The USBG and APGA recently awarded $403,450 to 21 public garden partnerships in 16 states and Washington, D.C. The garden partnerships foster public engagement and education in growing food and building capacity in urban agriculture. They also address food security challenges worsened by COVID-19.
Urban Gardening Initiatives
Alabama is among the 16 states that received an award. The partnership, established between the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University (AAMU) and Community Kitchens, received a $10,000 award. The award will support the Bruno Vegetable Garden located on the grounds of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
The Bruno Vegetable Garden is a 5,000 square foot food relief garden designated to growing vegetables. Annually, the garden donates more than 3,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to Community Kitchens and other organizations. The garden grows vegetables such as leafy greens, radishes, tomatoes, squash, green beans and bell peppers. Community Kitchens is a non-profit organization that offers free lunch to those in need, including people impacted by COVID-19.
“We are grateful to the United States Botanic Garden and American Public Gardens Association for supporting our ongoing work to share what we grow and harvest here at the Gardens with people in our community who otherwise have limited to no access to fresh, locally grown produce,” says Tom Underwood, Executive Director of the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. “These funds will also help us continue our efforts to promote wellness and nutrition by educating the public about growing and consuming fruits and vegetables.”
“Urban agricultural production is on the rise in Jefferson County and in many other counties across Alabama,” said Tyler Mason, an Alabama Extension at AAMU regional agent. “Producers and homeowners need resources they can depend on for reliable information. That’s what the Alabama Extension and Birmingham Botanical Gardens partnership delivers. The partnership also serves the community by providing delicious produce for the food insecure through initiatives like the Bruno Vegetable Garden.”
Urban Agriculture Resilience Program
The UARP was established in 2020 to sustain urban gardens that encountered challenges because of COVID-19. According to Feeding America, an estimated 42 million people, including 13 million children, will experience food insecurity this year alone. While many people experienced food insecurity prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 only increased hardship for many individuals and families. Programs like UARP help to sustain community food gardens that are vital to reducing food insecurity in America.
Specifically, the UARP enhances the strength of public gardens that work with community partners. These partners include entities such as schools, urban farms, food pantries, community gardens and public and private organizations. Also, according to a recent press release the UARP “will provide insight into successful approaches and future opportunities for public gardens and their partners to creatively utilize their unique assets to advance food and agriculture education in urban communities.”