Gardens have a way of creating community whether gardening together or apart. A beautiful garden in a neighborhood invites conversation from passersby. Sharing a harvest with neighbors instills an inclusive environment. For those who lack the space or means to grow a garden on their own property, community gardening is a great alternative.
The model of community gardening relies on collaboration. Gardeners come together in a common area to grow individual gardens alongside each other. Plots are assigned for gardeners to grow fruits, vegetables or flowers. Tools, particularly large ones such as rototillers, are generally shared amongst the gardeners and stored onsite to avoid the struggle of transporting them back and forth to the garden. Perhaps of even more value is the advice shared between the gardeners. The wisdom gardeners have gained over the years is put to use as they work side by side with gardeners new to the scene.
Community gardens can play an important role in big cities where space is at a premium. They have a pivotal role in revitalizing the land and increasing access to nutritious foods. The opportunities for creating educational spaces in the garden to benefit the local schools spreads the positive outcomes even further.
Historically, community gardens have been used to solve problems within the immediate location as well as issues on a larger scale. During the recession in the late 1800s, community gardens were established on vacant lots in Detroit to provide a food resource for hungry, out-of-work citizens. This strategy was replicated in other big cities.
During World War I, citizens turned to gardening again to meet the community food shortages. These “war gardens” became a symbol of patriotism and rallying for a communal benefit. During World War II, citizens knew where to turn for food and connection across the country. Even with the benefits of gardening during this time, the post-war era saw fewer community gardens as suburban neighborhoods were established and private backyards became the norm. However, even today community gardens serve an important purpose in public and private settings.
The current model of community gardening is focused less on solving a crisis and more on creating a sustainable solution. Community gardens today can be found in neighborhoods of all sizes as well as residential facilities and schools.
School gardens have served as a food source as well as a tool for teaching nutrition education and skills to become a lifelong gardener. Research supports the use of school gardens to target a variety of outcomes including fruit and vegetable consumption, core subjects such as math and language, physical activity and even social and emotional health and well-being. Ties to science curriculum are intuitive and bring to life concepts that may appear otherwise bland when taught traditionally.
If you are looking for a new gardening experience, perhaps an opportunity to make like-minded friends or gain from the wisdom of other gardeners, reach out to your local extension agency to discover community gardens near you. Clearly, gardens are useful for more than growing plants. When designed correctly they can grow communities as well.