Conceptualising community in community gardens

Is it just me or is the significance of ‘community’ slowly diminishing in our society? I feel as though everywhere I turn people are no longer willing to help their next-door neighbour put up that fence in exchange for a few beers anymore…But maybe it’s just where I’m living – in urban Sydney.

I’m sure quite a few people would agree with me, however I’m quite sure some people would think I’m crazy! However Moseley (2003) put it best when saying that the term ‘community’ cannot simply be applied to any collection of people who happen to live close to one another; communities are socially constructed through people sharing and interacting with a common purpose.

People always say, “I’m part of the ____ community”, but really you’re not if you don’t contribute and connect to the vibrant network of people that surround you. Keeping your head down walking down the street, not talking to anyone in the area, and not participating or contributing to an organisation or activity is NOT generating social capital. THIS is why I’m campaigning for people in the Eastern Suburbs to join their community gardens!!! I see too many people each day doing exactly this!

Honestly, who doesn’t like fresh fruit and vegetables? And who couldn’t take a couple hours out of their day to tend to a garden plot and catch up with some really lovely people in the area. If you just took those two hours that you spend at home watching a TV series, and instead you turned them into two hours of gardening and helping out at the garden…

A) You’d have a GOOD set of guns for summer

B) You’d feel A LOT better about yourself after getting outside and talking to people (or just talking to your plants!)

Community gardens generate a huge amount of social capital in various different ways, and I’ll run through a few of them for you now:

  1. People from different backgrounds are brought together with a common interest…FOOD – whatever the age, ethnicity, religion…A girl’s gotta eat!
  2. You feel like you’ve contributed in a joint activity and done something with a common purpose – My first foray into Coogee Community Garden saw me shoveling wheelbarrows full of mulch and then placing it around member’s garden plots – doing something for yourself is good, but doing something for another person is exhilarating
  3. Gardens create a physical meeting place – they give a place for people to meet new people and interact/contribute. Hopefully you all know by now that meeting someone at a nightclub or bar at 2am probably doesn’t mean that they are going to be the love of your life – and MAYBE just maybe, you’ll meet a like-minded individual at a garden!

So yes, you may just meet someone that you actually bond with on some sort of level because community gardens create networks of individuals with a similar interest and help people engage in social activities and share their skills and knowledge about food production, preparation and consumption – which is pretty scarce these days!

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3 comments

  1. Fantastic post! I have spent much of the past 10 years establishing communities gardens across the South Coast of NSW for exactly this reason – creating common language for members of a geographic area to converse on creates community. Not only that, but its great for flora and fauna in the area, and emotional and physical well being of the members. Its a cause I have such passion for.

    Like

    1. Hi Kathy!

      Thanks for the praise!
      It’s so interesting to hear about other people’s endeavours in other parts of Australia surrounding community gardens, great to hear that you’re an advocate for the real idea of “community” also. Would you possibly be interested in doing a small featured blog post on the campaign blog either today or tomorrow surrounding your experiences in community gardens and establishing them? I might email you also as I’m not too sure if you will receive this reply?

      Lena 🙂

      Like

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