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The Importance of Community Gardening

Amelia talks about the importance of community gardens, the many benefits of them, and their place in the future of society.


Collective work session at Bostanie urban garden. Image Credits: WikiCommons.


An overview


Food insecurity is an ever present challenge in our modern society, and our current agricultural systems are not as sustainable as they should be. There are few better ways of doing your part in tackling this than by growing your own food. As many people do not have land they can use for this, community gardens are a creative, sustainable, and realistic method of growing your own food all whilst helping the environment.

 

But, what actually are community gardens?

 

In essence they are areas of land, locally owned, that are cultivated and used by people living nearby for a variety of reasons. Most people use them for gardening, but they can also be used for social, community run events. It doesn't even have to be food, because people use community gardens to grow flowers or other ornamental plants, but for the most part people tend to use them to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

 

Community gardens can be found across the country, from university-led ones (like the garden the University of York!) to local groups in cities, towns and villages. Being a part of the garden at York has given me so much - from making like minded friends to the chance to grow my own food while living in student housing without a garden. If there isn’t one in your local area, and this article inspires you to start one, there are many useful resources about creating your own community garden online.


The community garden in the University of York. Image Credits: Amelia.

Benefits of community gardening


They have far more benefits than the obvious of self grown food - they are great places to connect with people, learn new skills, and get outside in the fresh air. They are also great for the environment and the community at large.

 

Homegrown food drastically cuts down environmental costs of your food, from reducing food miles and therefore your carbon footprint, to lower levels of insecticides and fungicides being used. Food also tastes better when it is locally grown, as it travels less between the plant and your plate!

 

Cultivating community is at the heart of community gardening, which is vital for so many aspects of life. The opportunity to socialise with people who you maybe wouldn't normally talk to and befriend people you would otherwise never have met is a wonderful part of community gardens. After all there's no better way to withstand the loneliness of late stage capitalism than by purposefully, and meaningfully, connecting with people. You can also meet non-human friends.


A friendly visitor to the garden and the pond. Image Credits: Amelia.

 

Learning new skills from other people in the garden is another key benefit. From learning about which vegetables to plant when and which to plant next to each other to what kind of soil you have and the plants best suited to it. You can discover different kinds of tools, techniques, and technologies to make gardening easier and more productive. There are also more subtle skills you can learn when engaging in the community, such as communication, leadership, or admin for events run by the garden.

 

While you may not think of gardening as exercise, it is physical labour and therefore is a great way to move your body and stay active without really thinking about it. Working outside also greatly benefits your mental health and overall physical health. Spending time outside in the sun will boost your spirit and your immune system due to the vitamin D from the sunshine.


The future


As climate change continues to disrupt the planet, and the food system grows more precarious and unsustainable, it is more important than ever to have the skills and space to grow your own food. It is also important to connect with and meet people in your community. Locally grown, organic, community driven food is the way forward, and community gardens should play a large part in that.

 

I hope this made you more aware of firstly, what community gardens actually are and secondly, why they are so important on a social, physical, and environmental level. So, next time you want to try a new hobby or get involved in the community, look out for your nearest community garden and get stuck in. Trust me, it’ll make you feel better!



About the author: Amelia is a second year biology undergraduate at the University of York who is the secretary for the gardening society and enjoys spending time outside in nature, especially in the university garden.

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