A community garden is any space where plants are grown and maintained by a community to meet the needs of that community. It can serve many congruent purposes, often with community building being a central need. They can be designed for any or all of four major purposes: food production, neighborhood beautification, environmental education and horticultural therapy.
Gardening is not just a hobby, it’s a learned skill passed down from generation to generation for greater food security (the pioneers did it, why can’t we?), bringing grace into our lives through the beauty of flowers and the rhythm of the seasons. A good friend said to me recently, that “IT ALL hinges on gardening. Land stewardship, food production, more green space, better air quality, reduced energy bills, it all comes down to each person understanding and appreciating how to grow plants, how to nurture a healthy ecosystem within the city.” It has to be a collective effort to keep food skills alive and well in our communities. It has to be a collective effort to protect and care for our green spaces-no government, no organization can do it. It has to be part of our collective conscience.
Community gardens are repositories of this knowledge, becoming local “nurseries” of growing education, where people can learn to get their hands dirty (and love it!) and learn how to nurture a seed into a tomato plant and how to garden, harvest, cook and preserve the summer’s bounty.
GardenWorks is a local organization that helps gardeners network so there is no need to reinvent solutions to common problems-gardeners tap into the experience of hundreds of people when facing a new problem, be it horticultural or organizational. Each community garden is unique and has the ability to evolve according to the needs of the community. These gardens are integral to their communities and bring together people like few other activities can. This can be true whether it is children learning from gardeners in their community how to grow for the first time, or elderly Hmong women having space to grow their traditional vegetables. Working in a community garden can give physical and spiritual sustenance, and offer a fresh air activity for any age and ability to give muscles a work-out. Community gardening offers an opportunity to invest sweat equity side-by-side with someone you might never otherwise talk to because of differences in age, socio-economic backgrounds, or languages.
Are you now ready to start a community garden?
The fundamentals are this: find ten motivated people such as yourself to get started! See what resources (people, organizations, land) are in the area and who would be interested. Give yourself TIME: the more time spent planning, the more successful the garden will be. Do it well, do it smart, and you will save yourself backache and heartache. Local solutions are the best for long-term sustainability. Make sure you tie the community and its interests and needs into the garden. Learn from other community gardens: visit gardens during the summer months and see how they do things. Each garden is different because it reflects its own community. Don’t hesitate to call GardenWorks for assistance – they are here to help you get started.
Learn more about community gardens by visiting the online directory at GardenWorksMN.org and visiting gardens during the annual celebration, the Parade of Community Gardens.
A Handbook of Community Gardening, Boston Urban Gardeners, Scribner, 1982.
310 E. 38th Street, #204b
Minneapolis, MN 55409