Armed with two pea seedlings and a bean plant, Central Point kindergartner Simon Cantwell has been ready to break ground on his family's garden since before it was warm enough to shed his coat for the year.

Armed with two pea seedlings and a bean plant, Central Point kindergartner Simon Cantwell has been ready to break ground on his family's garden since before it was warm enough to shed his coat for the year.

With as much ownership as if it were in his own backyard — and the promise of dirt and water to occupy his time this summer — the energetic 5-year-old can hardly wait to help bring in the harvest from his family's spot within the Central Point Community Garden.

Nestled on the grounds of historic Hanley Farm, the site is one of a dozen in the Rogue Valley that offer city-dwellers some fertile land on which to grow their own food. The concept of community gardens has been around for ages. With sites scattered around the region, the gardens have enjoyed a bit of a revival with the downturn in the economy.

"I have beans and peas. We put the seeds in the dirt and then put sticks in them and wrote our names on the sticks to knows whose those were," said the boy, who plans to share the garden plot with his parents, 11-year-old sister, Cynthia, and 1-year-old brother, Sam.

"You had to plant the peas and beans, but we're probably going to plant watermelon and strawberries. We haven't really decided what else yet."

In addition to gaining space their backyard can't provide, Simon's mom, Melissa Cantwell, said the prospect of participating in a community garden comes with a host of benefits — from garnering expertise from neighboring plot-holders to crop sharing and building a sense of community.

"We can save money by growing our own food, have high-quality, fresh produce at our fingertips and, probably most importantly, we have the opportunity to spend time outdoors as a family growing and nurturing our garden," said the mom.

"It's something the kids are excited for, and I think it will teach them a lot of valuable lessons."

Sharon Anderson, a coordinator for the Talent Great Green Garden, said the benefits of building community and growing organic produce are big draws for gardens like hers. The Great Green Garden started in 2008 on the grounds of Talent Elementary when volunteers helped transform a gravel parking lot into a now-busy garden space.

"Aside from providing some of the best food you can get when you're growing your own food, we have the opportunity to share that interest and for everyone to learn from each other," she noted.

"Last year we had squash problems, so we all worked to figure them out together. They share information on the best kind of veggies to grow, how to do winter gardening, teaching kids how to compost. It's such a community spirit, and there are so many things other than gardening that happen here."