Community gardens are not just an important source of fresh produce especially for the disadvantaged and economically challenged in the community, they provide spaces for community interaction, decision making, problem solving, creativity and celebration. They are places for creating new social connections and releasing the stresses of everyday life.
Community gardens provide a valuable resource in areas where many residents live in units and apartments and in areas where there is very little open space. Many community garden projects provide an opportunity for school children, unemployed people and mental health patients to engage in work that builds self-esteem and confidence. Community gardens provide opportunities to learn about food production, develop job skills, increase agriculture literacy, generate food-related businesses, and create links to nearby restaurants and food kitchens.
Community gardens or city farms as they are sometimes called, are not new yet they are experiencing a revival in many developed countries. In developing countries, 100-200 million urban dwellers are now urban farmers, providing food to approximately 700 million people. In some Latin American and African cities up to a third of vegetable demand is met by urban production; in Hong Kong and Karachi almost half of the demand is met; and in Shanghai over 80%. In the UK there are 300,000 allotments on 12,150 hectares, yielding 215,000 tonnes of fresh produce every year. The UK has several hundred city farms or community farms providing food for poorer urban groups and a range of other natural products such as wood, flowers and herbs.
Community gardens are on the increase in Australia. There are currently eleven community gardens in Sydney alone, more than any other Local Government Area in Australia.
What are community gardens?
Community gardens, or city farms, are community-managed projects working with people, animals and plants. They can be quite diverse in form and may range from small wildlife gardens to fruit and vegetable plots on housing estates, and from community green houses to large city farms.
They arise as a result of lack of access to green space or open space, and a desire to encourage strong community relationships and an awareness of gardening and farming. They are often initiated by community members and are run on a voluntary basis. Other, larger community farms may employ many workers and be run by a management committee of local people. Depending on funding sources, some are run in close partnership with local authorities.
The benefits of community gardens and city farms include:
- Provide productive, creative, safe, high quality open spaces
- Offer opportunities for people to learn new skills and abilities
- Support for healthy living programs
- Opportunities for low income families and community members to have access to organic fresh food
- Add to the economic wealth of the local area
- Provide employment opportunities for local people
- Improve the physical and mental health of people in the area where they are located
- Provide an avenue or mechanism for community cohesion and community development
- Provides opportunities for social inclusion
- Provides a process to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and different abilities, ages, and cultures.