Understanding the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations Associated with Community Gardening to Improve Environmental Public Health Prevention and Intervention

Author Type(s)


Document Type


Publication Date

February 2019

Journal Title

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Considering that community members continue to garden in and near environments impacted by pollutants known to negatively impact human health, this paper seeks to characterize the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of a gardener and elucidate their perception of soil quality and environmental responsibility, awareness of past land use, and gardening behavior. Via semi-structured interviews with community gardeners in the Boston area (N = 17), multifactorial motivations associated with gardening as well as ongoing environmental health challenges were reported. Gardeners are knowledgeable about their garden's historical past and are concerned with soil quality, theft, trash maintenance, animal waste, and loss of produce from foraging animals. Study findings directly inform the field of environmental health exposure assessments by reporting gardening duration, activities that can lead to incidental soil ingestion, and consumption patterns of locally grown produce. This information combined with an understanding of a gardener's intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can be used to develop urban agricultural infrastructure and management strategies, educational programming, and place-based environmental public health interventions.