For some, gardening is a solo activity, a way to clear the mind while shaping an outdoor space. For others, gardening is inherently social: by creating a communal space for growing food crops and ornamentals, these people are building bridges between community members, beautifying public space and sharing knowledge – and the fruits of their labours – with each other.
"A community garden is a safe, welcoming and beautiful landmark for any community," says Torontonian James Kuhns, president of the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA), which works to increase and enhance community gardening projects across the United States and Canada. "It's a place where gardeners help fellow gardeners."
What is a community garden?
A community garden, according to the ACGA, is, broadly speaking, any piece of land gardened by a group of people. This definition includes gardens dedicated to ornamentals or edibles in rural, suburban and urban communities with the goal of producing food or simply fostering community. "The purpose is for people to grow vegetables, fruit or flowers in a shared space," says Kuhns. "They also share some of the labour and tools and do certain projects together as a group."
Community vs. allotment gardens
There is often confusion between the definition of a community versus an allotment garden. While there is some overlap, strictly speaking, an allotment garden is a series of individual plots for which gardeners pay a fee. These gardens are often organized by the municipal government and there may not be any interaction between gardeners.
But in community gardens, says Kuhns, "building community is key." While gardeners may work individually delineated plots, they all participate in the running of the garden and often share some of the work. For example, says Kuhns, "many community gardens will have common plots that all gardeners work on, with the produce being donated to food programs."
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