Elder-Accessible Gardening
A Community Building Option for Brownfields Redevelopment
U.S. EPA Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization
America's aging population is one of the fastest
growing segments of society. By 2030, the population
of people 65 years of age and over is expected to
double, growing from 35 million (in 2008) to 72 million,
and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S.
Elder-accessible gardens create opportunities for
older volunteers to contribute their time and expertise
to grow nutritious foods, socialize with one another,
and pass on cross-generational knowledge to younger
community members. Gardening is also a great way
to engage people of all age groups in physical activity.
Done correctly, gardening can provide non-strenuous
exercise and quality time outdoors. Increasing
accessibility to these benefits should be a priority for
new and existing gardens.

Gardens for Nutrition
Researchers have found that aging, as  well as
medication, can bring physiological changes that may
affect appetite, the sense of taste, or even the ability
to chew and swallow foods.2 With those changes, new
approaches to food presentation and preparation are
needed to stimulate  appetite and interest in food. The
gardening and harvesting of varied garden-fresh food
may be one step that creates new enthusiasm for
eating among older people and can  help them adapt to
these changes.
                    Successful planting of raised beds at the
            Nationalities Community Garden - Philadelphia, PA

  • Satisfy a changing palate with herbs and spices like
   fennel, basil, spicy peppers or cumin. Many herbs
   or spices can thrive in small, convenient containers
   such as window boxes.
  • Learn to process fresh vegetables for easy
   chewing and long-term storage. Many community
   gardening organizations offer seasonal classes
   in canning, pickling or other food preservation
   techniques. Some methods of fermentation can
   increase nutrient availability, antioxidants, beneficial
   microorganisms or flavor.
Calorie needs typically decrease as the adult body
ages, physical activity is reduced, and metabolism
slows. While the older body may need fewer calories, it
still needs important nutrients (e.g., proteins, vitamins
and minerals) and fiber. Fruits, beans and vegetables
can provide both fiber and nutrients. Green leafy
vegetables, citrus fruit, beans and peas contain folate,
a B vitamin that is essential  in the production of red
blood cells.3 Beans and legumes can be important
"backyard protein" sources. Antioxidant-rich, garden-
ready foods include blueberries, tomatoes, red beans,
cabbage (sauerkraut),4 legumes, broccoli, spinach and
'Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators
of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S.
Government Printing Office. July 2010.

2Schiffman SS, Effects of aging on the human taste system. Ann N YAcad Sci. 2009 Jul;1170:725-9.
3"Nutrition and Aging". Purdue Extension, Consumer and Family Sciences, Department of Foods and

4Sollitto, Mario. "Top 14Antioxidant-Rich Foods forSuper Health Benefits."Agingcare.com. 2011.

  Gardens Increase Physical Activity
  Mowing the lawn with a push mower, raking leaves
  and gardening are three outdoor tasks that can help
  meet requirements for moderate physical activity.
  The Surgeon General and other leading  health
  professionals  recommend that all adults  accumulate
  30 minutes of moderate physical activity  on most
  days of the week. Children and adolescents should
  accumulate 60 minutes of moderate physical activity
  on most days  of the week in order to improve or
  maintain optimal health.
Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a common
condition among older Americans, especially
women. Physical activity, especially weight bearing
activity, can help slow the loss of bone mass that
naturally occurs with aging.5
As people age, they may experience diminished
physical strength, arthritis, limited mobility, or
other physical challenges to gardening activities.
Careful garden planning can help ensure continued
accessibility for people of all ages and physical
Starting a Community Garden on a Brownfield Property

Thousands of communities nationwide have assessed
and cleaned up brownfields for use as community
gardens with the help of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), state, tribal and other
brownfields funding sources. A brownfield is a property
that is vacant or abandoned because real or perceived
concerns about environmental contamination on the
property hinder its reuse. Before reusing a brownfield
as a community garden, there are important public
health considerations as well as environmental and
planning and zoning issues that should be taken into
Brownfields may have no or limited contamination that
may be removed or immobilized on site, depending
on the intended reuse of the site. While these cleaned
or stabilized sites can actually support a wide variety
of new uses, a renewed interest in sustainability, local
                     Construction underway at the Fremont
                     Community Garden - Sacramento, CA
food production, and healthy eating habits in children
and adults alike fosters an interest in reusing these
sites for community gardening.

Steps for Reusing a Brownfield Property
Community Involvement: Community involvement may very
well be the goal of your garden  project! Remember that
early community involvement - long before shovels
hit the ground - can help your project in a number of
ways. Documented community  involvement can help
you compete for grants and other scarce  resources.
Every community has a story to tell and that story may
attract interest in your project. Engage older members
of the community to compile neighborhood information
that is both historical and site specific. Some of this
information will be critical for the site assessment.
Financial Assistance: There are different types of grants and
services that may be available at the state, federal or
local level for brownfields site assessment and cleanup.
To learn more about these grants and how to apply,
contact your U.S. EPA regional  brownfields coordinator,
state environmental agency brownfields team, or
agricultural extension office. Local development/
redevelopment agencies, land banks or planning
agencies might already be involved in similar work
and may be  able to offer funding assistance (e.g.,
community development block grants).
                                                      5"0steoporosis: What You Should Know/'. Purdue Extension, Consumer and Family Sciences,
                                                      Department of Foods and Nutrition. www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-150-W.pdf

Starting a Community Garden on a Brownfield Property (continued)
      fc  Before Acquiring a Site and Site Assessment: Prior to buyi ng,
         leasing or borrowing a property for use as a garden,
         you will want to know the site history. You may be able
         to research some of the property-specific history in
         city records, libraries and other sources. You also can
         have a professional assess the site to ensure the soil
         is safe for growing food. Phase I and II environmental
         site assessments will determine whether surface soil
         or ground water contamination is present based on site
         history and review (including interviews with neighbors),
         visual inspection, and soil sampling and analysis.

         Environmental Contaminants and Soil: Site contaminants
         vary based on the property's previous use. Potential
         contaminants typically found on brownfields include:
         lead, arsenic and other metals at former industrial
         sites; petroleum and waste oils at former gas stations
         and auto repair facilities; volatile organic compounds
         (VOCs); pesticides;  polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
         (PAHs); and asbestos, often found in construction and
         demolition debris resulting from illegal dumping.
         In general, direct exposure to soils and accidental
         ingestion or inhalation may be of greater health concern
'*^\#'-  than the smaller fraction of contaminants that move
         from the soil to the plants. The food crops less likely to
         take up heavy metals include certain vegetables, fruits
         and seeds (e.g., artichokes and blueberries), whereas
         green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach and lettuce)
         may have soil particles splash onto the crop during
         watering. Root crops may also take up some types of
         contaminants. Selecting safe sites, incorporating clean
         materials, and using good  garden practices that use
         integrated pest management and reduce chemical use
         are all steps to safe gardening operations.
                                                                      Ensuring Soil Safety

                                                        Consider the likelihood of contamination
                                                        when planting. Avoid planting food crops
                                                        directly adjacent to building foundations
                                                        where exterior lead-based paint may be
                                                        present or close to heavily trafficked roads.
                                                        These adjacent soils, if not improved, may
                                                        be the places where lead contamination is
                                                        highest. Covering topsoil (e.g.,  mulching)
                                                        on paths and non-gardening  areas and
                                                        growing food crops in raised  beds with new
                                                        topsoil are common approaches to help
                                                        prevent gardener exposures  to potential
                                                        environmental contaminants.
                                                     Tailoring Remediation Strategies to Reuse: State voluntary
                                                     cleanup programs or other appropriate regulatory
                                                     authorities can help determine whether your site is safe
                                                     for food production or the extent of cleanup required
                                                     for your site. Brownfield properties will require varying
                                                     levels of cleanup based on the site's planned reuse
                                                     and state and local requirements. Other factors that
                                                     should be considered are any potential exposures
                                                     that may be associated with the planned reuse and
                                                     the estimated risk to human health. A brownfield
                                                     property slated for reuse as a community garden would
                                                     likely seek the most stringent cleanup standards to
                                                     ensure protection of human health. Alternatively, at a
                                                     property for production of non-food crops or biofuels,
                                                     or in operations where only adults enter, commercial
                                                     or industrial reuse standards may be sufficient. To
                                                     determine which end uses apply to your particular
                                                     situation, please contact your state voluntary cleanup
                                                     program or appropriate regulatory authority.

     Case Study: Multi-Cultural Gardening at the Nationalities Service Center - Philadelphia, PA
     In 2010, the Nationalities Service Center received
     funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging
     and Philadelphia Corporation for Aging to build a
     community garden on the grounds of a local church
     (Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church). The property
     consisted of a patch of lawn and an  adjacent vacant lot
     that was overrun by trash, weeds and the remains of an
     old trash incinerator. Part of the vacant lot had recently
     been used as  a space for temporary classroom trailers.
     The Center collected soil samples from the property
     and mailed them to the University of Massachusetts'
     Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory for analysis.
     Contaminant levels were not especially high, but the
     soils were also found to be nutrient-poor. The Center
     decided to use raised bed gardens with commercial
     soils to provide plants with ideal growing conditions and
     to maximize accessibility for elderly  gardeners.
     Specific goals of the garden project  included:
      n Empowering Center members  to have a voice in
         what kinds of food they are eating each day in
         their congregate meal program; and
      a Engaging older adults in meaningful volunteer
         roles as teachers (passing on knowledge that
         they acquire from prior experience as agricultural
         workers) as well as care givers for the garden
         space throughout the growing season.
     The Nationalities Service Center is a non-profit
     organization that provides legal, educational, social
     services and senior services to immigrants and
refugees so they can participate fully in American
society. The Center currently serves older adults from
Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Korea,
Iraq, Eastern Europe, as well as U.S. born African
American and Caucasian seniors. Many Center
members were agricultural workers in their countries of
origin. Since moving to the United States, many have
not had access to places to grow food and use skills
and expertise they have from prior agrarian work.
             Quotes from the Gardeners
          at the Nationalities Service Center

  "The garden makes me very happy. Each time
  I am out here I just want to come out and do
  more and more planting."

  "I like the fact that we grow many different
  things in the beds.  This way we can grow
  things for ourselves and also share with other

  "I feel that I am really a part of something

  "I am very happy to be outside growing
  something.  I want to continue growing more
  so that I can share with others."

  "I want to be able to grow more food so that
  I can  cook and share my cultural foods with
#  mm
                                                                    Raised beds and rest area in the Nationalities Senior
                                                                         Center Community Garden - Philadelphia, PA

      Case Study: Multi-Cultural Gardening at the Nationalities Service Center - Philadelphia, PA (continued)
      Members participate actively in decisions about what is
      planted in the garden, and in turn, what is offered in the
      "congregate meal menus." The diversity of the selection
      of herbs and vegetables offered in the garden allows for
      greater cultural understanding among these groups.
      The gardens were planned not only as a source of food
      and natural beauty, but also as a place where local
      seniors and other residents could remain physically
      active, connect with each other and to the natural world,
      and engage in community activities. Gardening is done
      in raised beds to accommodate all Center members
      who would like to participate. Given the Center's
      mission to serve immigrant and refugee populations,
      these gardens are seen as places of fellowship where
      people from diverse backgrounds can grow culturally
      relevant foods and plants.
      Program Director Tara Swartzendruber-Landis
      describes some of the physical benefits of gardening:
                                            "Gardening activities increase endurance, flexibility
                                            and strength. Gardening has many other physical and
                                            mental benefits that can help people feel younger
                                            and stay fit. It is a great activity for older people who
                                            need gentle exercise but also need to stay mobile and

                                            Community Involvement
                                            Initial steps in creating the garden included: acquiring
                                            land,  seeking out "champions" or elders who would be
                                            the foundation of the project, and looking for funding.
                                            Once these initial steps were underway, the "real
                                            gardening work" could begin. Elders  from the Center
                                            and the local community stayed involved as the garden
                                            planners looked for appropriate  beds and tools, sought
                                            out culturally relevant plants, and planned for long-term
                                            care and maintenance of the garden.
Communities volunteers tend to the Nationalities Senior
       Center Community Garden - Philadelphia, PA
           Community volunteer planting in raised bed at the
Nationalities Senior Center Community Garden - Philadelphia, PA
        Cultivating Community Through Gardens

        Pairing gardeners (e.g., young-with-old and experienced-with-inexperienced) provides
        increased accessibility to community gardens and strengthens the communities where
        the gardens are grown. Knowledge of effective gardening practices can be passed from
        generation to generation, along with cultural information about the meaning of food and
        plants to different people from different times.

Case Study: Using Gardens to Engage the Elderly - City of Sacramento, CA Community Gardens
The City of Sacramento Department of Parks manages
nine community gardens and will open two more by
September 2011. All of the gardens include at least
two accessible raised bed gardening plots designed for
older or alter-abled citizens.

Fremont Community Garden
The Fremont Community Garden had a 30-year history
of informal gardening  use before the city initiated
redevelopment plans for the neighborhood. The
Capital Area Development Authority (CADA)  received
ownership of the site from the State of California and
started the redevelopment process. CADA conducted
environmental site assessments that identified PAHs,
lead and pesticides in the soil.
A U.S.  EPA Brownfields Cleanup grant for $200,000
helped to leverage over $423,000 for cleanup and
redevelopment. The cleanup included removal of
twenty-four to forty-two inches of topsoil to address
contamination issues. CADA also tested the  new fill
and soil that was brought in before donating the site
to the Parks Department for further development,
maintenance and management. The whole process
from redevelopment planning to garden opening took
over three years.
Today, the Fremont community enjoys a well-used
garden, and former brownfields surrounding the
property have been redeveloped into contemporary
apartments. The raised-bed plots are being used  by
elder gardeners, and there is a waiting list for both
regular and raised-bed gardening spaces. Community
gardeners agree to  use only natural or organic
fertilizers and pest control.
                                                     From Gas Station to Garden
                                                     The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Garden opened
                                                     to the public in August 2011, and features 32 ground-
                                                     level gardening plots and four raised-bed plots. The
                                                     Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency
                                                     (SHRA) and the Sacramento Parks and Recreation
                                                     Department funded cleanup and garden construction.
                                                     The project addresses multiple community needs by
                                                     reducing blight, providing access to fresh vegetables,
                                                     providing garden access to  all ages, and revitalizing
                                                     the streetscape and neighborhood with greenspace,
                                                     foot traffic, and related arts  projects.
                                                     As SHRA was drafting streetscape and urban
                                                     design master plans for the neighborhood, residents
                                                     expressed a desire to improve access to fresh, healthy
                                                     food and the community identified specifically a need
                                                     for gardening space. A SHRA-owned vacant parcel
                                                     was identified as the future  site for a community
                                                     garden. The site was used formerly as a gasoline
                                                     service station and automobile repair facility. A
                                                     waste oil storage tank and three gasoline tanks were
                                                     removed from the site in 1988. SHRA purchased
                                                     the property in 1996 and demolished the remaining
                                                     structures on the property. SHRA then conducted
                                                     Phase I and II environmental site assessments and
                                                     subsoil testing. The property did not test high for
                                                     contaminants at that time. The site was again tested
                                                     (Phase I and II environmental site assessments)
                                                     before being transferred to the Sacramento Parks and
                                                     Recreation  Department in 2009, and no contaminant
                                                     issues were found. The Parks Department will bring
                                                     in additional clean fill and topsoil to complete garden
                        Volunteers working in the Fremont
                     Community Garden - Sacramento, CA
                                                                      A view of the gate at Martin Luther King, Jr.
                                                                          Community Garden - Sacramento, CA

Design for Accessibility
Garden designs should be site specific, considering
both the physical features of the site and the people
who will use it. Including garden features such as
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant paths
and ramps, raised beds or containers, adequate
shading, seating and low-maintenance irrigation can
enhance accessibility to community gardens and
enhance the gardening experience.
Garden accessibility starts with  paths. Accessible paths
allow for increased mobility and safety of movement
throughout the garden. The ideal garden path will
need to have a hard, yet water-permeable surface
that wheels can roll over easily.  Some sites have had
success with fine gravel surfaces or wood mulches
on pathways. On sloped sites, ADA-accessible ramps
may be necessary to provide access. Amongst other
requirements, ramps should be  at least 36 inches
wide with 60-inch landings free  of obstructions. Ramps
exceeding 20:1 (5 percent) slope will  require handrails
according to ADA regulations, and often, local  building
codes. Outdoor ramps should be designed so that
water will not accumulate on walking surfaces.
The use of raised beds and containers is another
design component of community gardens that can
increase accessibility. Providing raised beds two to
three feet in height allows for easier maintenance and
harvesting. Containers such as  planter boxes,  wooden
barrels, hanging baskets, and large flowerpots can be
used to increase accessibility to gardeners. Raised
beds and containers also provide opportunities for
gardening on contaminated or otherwise less-suitable

Plan for Shade and Seating
The use of shading in community gardens can provide
aesthetic benefits, increase accessibility, and promote
biodiversity.  Features such as planted trellises and
trees create shade that provides a respite from heat
and ultraviolet  radiation. Trellises can be planted with
ornamentals like flowering vines or with edible crops
like tomatoes,  beans or grapes. Not only can these
features be included in a community garden in an
aesthetically pleasing way, they make shelter for shade-
tolerant or shade-requiring plant species in the garden.
Cool season vegetables such as lettuce and spinach
may benefit from partial shading during the warmest
summer months.
                                                           Younger and older gardeners are particularly affected
                                                           by ultraviolet radiation. Community gardens can further
                                                           accommodate these gardeners by making available
                                                           items such as gloves, long sleeve shirts and wide
                                                           brimmed hats.
                                                                        Bench with umbrella shade, Martin Luther King, Jr.
                                                                                 Community Garden - Sacramento, CA

                                                           Seating, particularly in shaded areas, can increase
                                                           accessibility and comfort in community gardens.
                                                           The availability of seating in community gardens
                                                           is especially beneficial to those with heart and/or
                                                           respiratory conditions. Natural materials, including
                                                           straw bales or tree stumps, or natural building
                                                           materials such as cob—a mixture of clay, sand and
                                                           straw—can be used for seating. These materials can
                                                           be incorporated easily into the gardens and are often
                                                           already present at gardening sites.

                                                           Conserve Effort and Water
                                                           Adding compost to soils, drip irrigation and mulching
                                                           are effective water conservation practices that can
                                                           decrease the amount of water that has to be physically
                                                           transported, giving gardeners an increased ability
                                                           to care for their gardens. Consider "traffic patterns"
                                                           when planning a garden. Compost bins, water and
                                                           other resources should be placed near planting
                                                           beds. Techniques such as sheet mulching can
                                                           drastically reduce tilling and other maintenance needs.
                                                           Community gardens should have some source of fresh,
                                                           consumable water onsite for gardeners to drink.

 "/ o

      EPA's Aging Initiative

      Urban Agriculture
      U.S. EPA Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization.

      U.S. EPA. Office of Superfund Remediation and
      Technology Innovation, Ecotools, Growing Gardens
      in Urban Soils, www.cluin.org/ecotools/urbangardens.

      State and Tribal Programs
      U.S. EPA Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization

      National and Global Organizations

      Amercian Community Garden Association,
      Accessible Garden

      National Association of Nutrition and Aging Programs

      The National Council on Aging

      World Health Organization, Age-Friendly
      Environments Program
                                                         Local Initiatives and Non-Profits
                                                         Community Gardens, Department of Parks and
                                                         Recreation, City of Sacramento

                                                         Nationalities Service Center, Philadelphia, PA

                                                         Philadelphia Corporation for Aging

                                                         Portland Memory Garden

                                                         Tool Kit for Community Gardens and Seniors, GenPhilly
                              Elder-Accessible Gardening
                              A Community Building Option
                              for Brownfields Redevelopment
                                                                 Solid Waste
                                                                 and Emergency
                                                                 Response (5105T)
       September 2011