Being part of a community garden has been one of the most rewarding things in my life. As a young child, gardening with my grandmother was one of my favorite pastimes. I was exposed to the riches of the natural world at a very young age. I was taught to be observant and respectful of nature and the natural environment. Grandma’s garden was situated in her cozy backyard; it only took up a small amount of space, however, it made a significant impact on my young mind. The idea that we didn’t need to go to the grocery store to buy our carrots, peas, zucchini and tomatoes fascinated me. The garden taught me about seasons and growth patterns in plants. Grandma taught me how to make natural, chemical free plant fertilizers, as well as methods for keeping insects and deer away. I felt as though I was connected deeply with nature, those moments when my bare hands touched the warm, earthy soil.
Thus years later, I still feel deeply connected with the environment. Living in the bustling city of Vancouver, Canada can sometimes make it difficult to reconnect personally with nature. I actively sought out a solution for the lack of greenery in my small apartment space. I searched for community gardens in the Vancouver area and found Dunsmuir Community Gardens. The Dunsmuir Garden Group allows one to pick out a small plot of land in the community garden, to begin growing.
The most rewarding aspect of being part of a community garden was having the opportunity to meet likeminded individuals. Community gardens provide a significant opportunity for a feeling of fellowship between neighbors and community members of all social standings. I was able to meet and network with individuals who I would not have met previously, who ironically lived in the same area as myself. The gardens acted as a means of bringing people together; they instilled a sense of like-mindedness and community, strengthening social cohesiveness and compassion in the neighborhood.
The garden plots are also a significant source of green space for the city. The allotments are not only aesthetically pleasing, with brightly blooming flowers, mixed with various fruits and vegetables; they are also important for the greenery that they provide. One feels transported, out of the hectic stress of city life, to a place of nature, where they can decompress and reconnect with the environment. It was a place where I could once again feel the warmth of rich soil on my bare hands, a rarity in urban life.
From an environmental and health perspective, the act of growing ones own food products ensures a wholly organic product for consumption. One does not need to be concerned about pesticides or preservatives. The health benefits of harvesting from a community garden are immense. One learns about the amount of labor invested into growing food, I personally am continually astounded by how rewarding it was, to care for a plant up until it was ready to harvest. One learns about the process of growing food, and one may note that it is much more difficult than picking groceries up from off of a shelf. An increased experience with gardening has the potential to connect an individual with nature as well as with their food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are easy to take for granted when they are presented to the consumer, shiny, ripe and on a shelf in a supermarket. Community gardens are unique in the sense that they bridge the gap between a consumer and the food production industry.
Essentially, the psychological, social and environmental benefits of working in a community garden are extremely valuable. My exposure to gardening at a young age motivated me to continue a pursuit of my passion for the environment into adulthood. This opportunity to connect with nature should be available to people of all walks of life, and community gardens are a sustainable solution when it comes to gardening in urban spaces.