By Cris Blackstone
The UN General Assembly recently adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the pandemic foisting a new lifestyle on many people, and gardening taking more prominence as evidenced by increased sales at garden centers nationwide, many of these seventeen goals have garnered more focus than ever before.
Goal 1 is “No Poverty” and from there, the other sixteen goals cascade with equal importance. Many of these goals may resonate with gardeners including permaculture, improving physical, mental, and emotional health through gardening, growing food, revitalizing communities, etc. The list goes on and on. No matter where your garden avocation leads you, strong partnerships with neighbors, municipalities, media sources, and regional governments each contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
As Garden Communicators, we know the most up-to-date information coupled with the most accurate historical research and evidence is important. Taking the UN Sustainable Goals as a blueprint for what we hope to accomplish is a topic GardenComm’s Sustainability Committee members discuss and hope to share and promote through our individual work as authors, artists, and presenters. It can feel like a big leap from the worldwide perspective presented through the United Nations, to our own efficacy locally, but remember the popular bumper sticker, “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
One way to learn more and react to more local information is to learn from the Agriculture Commissions many states have instituted for individual municipalities. State Ag Commissions are heavily involved with specific SDGs such as goal no. 9 relating to “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.” Soil is the ultimate infrastructure. State Ag Commissions and Conservation Districts know all too well the importance of no-till practices, cover cropping, preserving topsoil, caring for microbes beneath the surface for plant health, and avoiding erosion. These are all topics we consider as garden communicators, and see in print and hear in podcasts frequently.
Agriculture Commissions are also now growing in popularity in many communities, using many of the SDGs as their driving objectives. Massachusetts, Washington State, and California are pioneers in establishing local ag commissions.
From activities such as Victory Gardens 2.0 promoted by the National Garden Bureau to edible front lawns, agriculture commissions are a good source for garden communicators to learn from and reference. Agriculture Commissions in my home state, New Hampshire, are particularly creative and involved with both outreach and education. The Durham NH Ag Commission, for instance, promotes the Edible Front Lawn initiative. Citizens are encouraged to plant their front lawn with edibles – vegetables are grown in place of traditional lawns, sometimes in raised beds and sometimes simply where the grass was. Signs in each lawn state the fact that it’s an Edible Front Lawn, and tours are offered during years when the town holds Farm Days, including the neighborhoods where these edible front lawns are prevalent. The Durham Ag Commission also helped sponsor a winter-long e-mail course for people to learn about soil testing, site evaluation, locating perfect plants to use, and even fermenting techniques to use what was grown in new ways. Lee, NH, has another very active and vibrant Ag Commission. They sponsor a lecture series featuring expert presentations on soils, pollinators, and vegetables, honey, and edible flowers, which includes a nutritionist’s perspective as a part of a panel discussion. Ag Commissions across NH are encouraging towns to join the national Bee City USA program, and create awareness through presentations, posters and local television programming.
The GardenComm Sustainability Commmittee encourages you to become familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and consider researching your city, state, or regional Agriculture Commissions to see what valuable information is available there, as you Think Globally, Act Locally, to do your part to help bring awareness to these current topics.
Meet the Author
Cris Blackstone is the Education Coordinator for the New Hampshire Landscape Association, a Certified NH Landscaper, University of NH Natural Resources Steward, and Master Gardener. She co-hosts “The Environmental Hour,” once-monthly radio show in seacoast NH/Maine. She serves on municipal, county and statewide Conservation Commissions or Districts and is a frequent workshop presenter or facilitator on topics from herbs to indoor plant care. Her photography work includes juried events and accompanies many of her freelance articles.