Growing population and rapid urbanisation have increased demand for food in the urban areas which has led to the global issues of food safety, availability and affordability. This demand has on the one hand been fulfilled by growth in industrial agriculture where as on other hand limited our connectedness with nature and detached ourselves form the pleasure of growing our own food. In addition, climate change, food miles and footprint are also becoming the major concerns. Hence currently, in the urban society, the community garden has emerged to bridge this gap and connect people with the nature not only to produce food but also to cultivate healthy community and enhance community harmony and resilience. Community gardens are gaining popularity all over the world as an alternate source of urban food.
What is community garden?
Community garden is a common area where people form diverse communities come together to grow their food, share skills and make new friends. The garden is managed by a group of like- minded people who shares the same passion for gardening. People living in apartments or units have limited space for gardening. However, the increased development of community garden in the urban society has left city dwellers with no choices but to connect with nature and grow the favourite fruits, vegetables and herbs.
The essence of community garden lies in more than being just a place to grow food and vegetables. The community garden has successfully served as a place that enhances healthy lifestyles, reduces social isolation, improves local food security and develop new green spaces and open spaces for community to enjoy and encourages strong community relationship through gardening and food production.
Benefits of community garden
Community garden holds lots of benefits. Here are some of the benefits-
- Provides access to land to grow fruits and vegetables
- Provides access to fresh and nutritious food that helps to enhance health and wellbeing. Gardening also provides a physical activity that provides positive impact on heath.
- Enhances social life by increasing social cohesion and connectedness among people from different ethnic and cultural background.
- Develop and use public space to increase the productivity. It also manages and protects the open space to add value to the land and increase the functional green space in urban area.
- Provides an opportunity to learn and share new skills from each other. Community members also learn from various educational and capacity building programs in the garden such as sustainable gardening, horticulture, composting, healthy cooking etc.
- Provides access to locally grown, nutritious food that reduces household cost on food. Some gardens producing surplus are able to sell their produce to the nearby market thus helping earn extra income.
- Encourages sustainable gardening which benefits environment on many ways. Organic farming, natural pest control, composting, using rainwater for irrigation etc. helps to maintain environmental sustainability.
Different models of community garden
There is no one set rule for gardening and hence the garden model might differ according to its location and community needs and desires. The garden occupies both public and privately owned land. Some garden are based on allotment approach where as some might be shared and some might be the combination of both. In allotment approach the garden space is divided into plots that are assigned to each member to grow their own food where as in the shared garden all the members collectively contribute their effort and share the harvest. In general, the gardens have combination of both types and are more multifunctional.
The long term viability of the garden depends upon the motivation and commitment of the stakeholders involved, the type of gardening practices adopted and other environmental and social factors. Aligning with the objective of producing healthy and organic food, the community garden also focus on adopting environmental conservation and sustainability where applicable.
Permaculture system of agriculture is becoming popular among community garden. This is a low impact and resource intensive gardening system designed to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Permaculture integrates the principle of caring for the earth, caring for the people and equitable share of the produce. It is a well-established system that is easy to understand and apply in the community garden. Community garden also holds diverse opportunities for social interaction and some include community education and capacity building programs that helps in holistic development of garden and gardeners.
Getting involved in community garden
One can get involved in community garden in different ways. Depending on who own the garden land and who manages the garden, the involvement of garden members might vary. Community gardens can be initiated and managed by the local community members or groups such as schools, churches, not for profit organisation etc. on a voluntary basis or managed or assisted by local council or might be run by a bigger community groups and have someone employed to look after the garden. It would be appropriate to get in touch with your local council as they usually have the updated information, if you would like to have any information or get involved in the community garden in your area.
See the video below to learn more on community garden and identify different benefits community garden can provide
Community gardens are getting widely popular and successful in the area where people with low socio- economic background resides and where apartment and units are predominated. The garden also provides new migrants and disadvantaged group to get connected with the community and food that helps to enhance skills and knowledge and confidence. The idea of creating community gardens originated in the United Kingdom during the 18th century to fulfil the need of low income labourers to supplement their food sources. The first community garden in Australia was established in 1977 in Nunawading, Victoria. Today the principles of community garden has been widely adopted in all the states of Australia and continue growing in numbers. Considering what it takes to develop one, there is no limit to what community garden can offer to the community and environment that has made it widely accepted in different parts of the world.
Please do share if you have any interesting stories on community garden..!!