The downtown center of Lafayette, Indiana is situated in a food desert where access to healthy, nutritious food can be limited. Urban gardens are an effective way to increase access to healthy alternatives while also providing a number of benefits to the surrounding area, including opportunities for community growth, education, and physical activity. In summer 2016, researchers from Purdue University collaborated with Lafayette’s GrowLocal Urban Gardens Network (GrowLocal) to perform a baseline analysis of the current community gardening initiatives, and explore the possibilities for expansion, development, and future community involvement through urban gardening.

Both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods were utilized throughout the research process. Stakeholder perceptions were collected through a series of interviews and focus groups. The findings from this process revealed motivations and barriers to participation. Additionally, the data demonstrated that the urban gardens as community spaces may actually serve a greater purpose than the fresh, healthy food alternatives they provide. Garden inventories and soil analyses were also collected at each GrowLocal affiliated garden site. The results of this study were further used to prepare a planning document for GrowLocal that contained the following strategic recommendations: (i) implement a governing structure to partition GrowLocal operations; (ii) develop internal and external communication frameworks; (iii) connect with existing events, activities, and programs; and (iv) develop a collaborative grant with Purdue University.