What is a CG?
A community garden is an area for growing food, herbs, native plants and flowers that are used by the people who live in the community. They can have individual plots, communal growing areas or a mix of both.
A Community Garden is run by the community group as a whole, generally through a set of formal or informal committees. The goal is to engage all garden members in decision making. Some gardens are run by community organizations or institutions (such as schools or public housing providers), but they still are accountable to the community and aim to involve gardeners in running the garden.
Considered at one time to be a recreational activity, gardening is now understood as an important source of food for many gardeners. For a list of health, social, economic and environmental benefits, see the Benefits tab.
Many people confuse community gardens with allotment gardens. The City of Toronto runs the allotment gardens program – you pay your rent for your “allotment” – about $75 and do not need to worry about your garden neighbours or the surrounding area. On the other hand, community gardens are run by a community group, they can either have an “individual plot arrangement” or communal plots, or a mixture of both. Some of these groups will have a parent organization like a Health or Community Centre, and some are just stand alone groups. People join the community group and might be requested to make a small donation to the community garden.
Benefits of Community Gardens
By Emily Martyn
- People who grow their own food have access to a variety fresh produce which supports nutritional health, decreases susceptibility to illnesses and overall reduces the burden on the health care system.
- Gardening involves physical activity so it helps individuals improve their physical fitness.
- Community gardens are a great place to escape from the noise and commotion of everyday urban life.
- Studies show the following health benefits to be associated with involvement in community gardening: strengthened immunity, reduced rates of asthma, decreased stress, increased overall sense of wellbeing and reduced risk of childhood lead poisoning.
- Allow for a dignified way to access healthy food.
- A community garden can be both a classroom and a textbook for formal and non-formal education programs and institutions.
- Learning to grow plants is mentally stimulating and adds to an individual’s wealth of knowledge and expertise.
- Growing a garden teaches people to think sustainably and use long-term problem-solving skills rather than relying on quick fix, short-term solutions.
- Gardens can educate the public on issues such as waste minimization and recycling through composting and mulching.
- Creates community resource people to support others who are interested in gardening.
- Community gardens can be a significant source of food and/or income for community members. This is especially helpful for families and individuals without much land who would not otherwise be able to produce their own food.
- Urban agriculture is 3 to 5 times more productive per acre than traditional large scale farming.
- Studies show that community gardens can increase neighbourhood property values.
- Rainwater is filtered through gardens, helping to keep lakes, rivers and groundwater clean.
- Community gardens restore oxygen into the air and help reduce air pollution.
- Large quantities of organic waste can be used to fertilize gardens, thus helping to minimize a community’s overall waste output.
- Reduce soil erosion and runoff, which lessens flooding and saves the city money.
- By reducing the “heat island” effect, gardens lessen the need for air conditioning and lower electric bills.
- Community garden projects give community members the opportunity to work side-by-side, regardless of cultural background or native tongue.
- New immigrants can produce traditional crops that are otherwise unavailable locally.
- Gardening can expose new generations to cultural traditions and promote inter-generational learning.
- Community gardening enables participants from different cultural backgrounds to exchange gardening- and non-gardening-related knowledge with one another.
- Community gardens are a valuable social venue where neighbours can get to know one another, and build a sense of community and belonging.
- By working together for a common purpose, community gardeners learn to make communal decisions, solve problems and negotiate with one another.
- Collective gardening increases the sense of ownership and stewardship that exists, and fosters the development of community identity and spirit.
- Can reduce isolation for seniors and other residents not connected to the community.
- Increase self-esteem as gardeners see what they have created and the skills they have built.
- Create leaders by giving community members the chance to take the lead in projects.
- Teaches them about appreciation for the natural world and how to interact with others in a socially meaningful and physically productive way. Community gardening is a healthy, inexpensive activity for youth.
- Not only can youth gain practical job and life skills through gardening (such as math skills and understanding of basic business principles), they can also learn about the work that goes into getting the food they eat to the table and about the importance of community, stewardship and environmental sustainability.
- Many police departments recognize community gardening projects as an effective strategy to prevent local crime. They foster a sense of mutual respect among community members, lead to the formation of neighbourhood associations and social networks, and increase the number of eyes on the street.
- Studies have shown that areas with above average green vegetation have less graffiti and littering, and lower crime rates (with no correlation between the amount of green space and income level).
- A few plants and some elbow grease can transform empty lots into beautiful green spaces.
- Gardens increase and protect vegetation diversity in a community, while also providing habitat for urban wildlife.