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Mariah Demery
Posted by Mariah DemeryMay 6, 2019 6:00 PM
Over the last decade especially, it seems America has thoroughly fallen in love with healthier lifestyles and ways to eat (thanks in part, no doubt, to social media). Fresh produce has a massive role to play in that movement, which is part of why there has never been a better time to build brands in this space! But even as general awareness grows, accessibility to fresh food and nutrition knowledge is still a massive issue for some of the largest populations within this country, particularly within urban, rural, and minority communities. Luckily, there is much we can do to improve the quality of life for groups in our own communities, portions of which we may inadvertently be leaving out—like by donating seeds or produce fresh gardens, for example.

What is a fresh garden?

Fresh gardens—a type of community garden—are neighborhood projects in vacant lots that are usually sponsored by foundations or companies in order to plant fresh products to feed and educate residents. Within these (often urban) markets, gardens are planted on small plots to provide locals with access to fresh food multiple times a month, and several organizations also deliver produce to disabled and elderly community members. Seeds donated by produce companies not only help to foster growth of the food, but also of knowledge among diverse audiences. Younger generations are hungry—literally—to learn how to live better, healthier lives. Children involved with fresh garden programs learn about the importance of fresh food as well as supporting topics like composting and sustainable agriculture.

Now, from an ROI perspective, you may be asking why your company should donate seeds or produce to fresh gardens when you want people to buy your products. The fact of the matter is, if there is insufficient access to fresh produce and nutrition information in a particular area, that’s an almost automatic loss of sales for whole groups of potential customers. So how do you break into a new market that could potential be a game-changer? Here’s a little more background on why fresh gardens might be the answer for your brand:


What is a food desert?

It’s well-known that low-income neighborhoods around America (including rural and urban areas) often lack access to grocery stores with a wide variety of affordable, high-quality fruits and vegetables. These areas are known as “food deserts,” which are defined by the USDA as an area where at least 33 percent of the population must resides more than a mile (or 10 miles, for rural areas) from a supermarket or large grocery store. These regions frequently suffer from higher obesity rates than more affluent areas.


How are fresh gardens relevant to my brand?

  1. Think for a moment who your target shopper is—who they really are. Who are you trying to appeal to? Who is actually buying your products, and what issues affect them on a daily basis?
  2. Next, think about who has realistic access to your products and who might not. Refer back to the audience you just outlined: who might you be leaving out, and what existing barriers might prevent them from buying your products?


For produce brands, fresh gardens present an incredible opportunity to effect change in the lives of people who desperately need access to fresh products—along with knowledge about how to cook them—while fostering brand loyalty. Imagine not being able to purchase high-quality produce, or some of the “trendier” produce items (looking at you, celery juicing craze!) that aren’t always available at store locations in lower-income areas…and then know that you can help change that. It’s incredible how planting a few seeds can foster growth within a community for generations to come, among people who just may reach for fresh products on the shelf for a very long time, thanks in part to your involvement in a project that changed their life.


Why should marketers care about getting their brands involved?

Fresh gardens and similar projects help to build communities that are more knowledgeable about fresh produce from a young age, which allows produce marketers to tell brand stories and build brand equity with whole new groups of people over time. Know that the power and potential of the urban market are incredible—if you have read our latest Stats That Prove offer, you have seen just how much potential there is in appealing to even one group that makes up part of the urban market. However, we have to help bridge the access gap to tap into them, and community garden spaces often provide some of the first opportunities for children in low-income and minority-majority communities have to access greenery. And as far as the potential impact you could help create? How’s this: a study by Jama Network Open found that having access to even small green spaces can reduce symptoms of depression for people who live near them, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Additional research has concluded that actively marketing healthier foods may be even more important for increasing access than placing a supermarket in low-access areas. What a great way for your brand to invest in local communities!

Furthermore, all this can come at a surprisingly small cost: according to the JAMA Network Open study, starting a greening intervention in Philadelphia can cost as little as $1,600, with as little as an additional $180 per year per lot required for maintenance—even less when partnering with organizations that donate seeds or produce to help introduce their products to the community.


Fresh garden projects help bring quality fresh fruits and vegetables to communities, and their efforts better equip people to live healthier lives. When produce brands get involved with these interventions, they are taking steps to improve the way that large groups of people view and approach food for the rest of their lives—what’s there to lose?

Find a community garden—or found your own!


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Topics: Fresh Produce Industry, Miscellaneous

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