Community gardens are sprouting like weeds. There are hundreds of community gardens in British Columbia, thousands across Canada and throughout North America and Europe, more if you count school gardens. Governments are increasingly recognizing the social, environmental and economic benefits of community gardens too. The City of Vancouver pledged to add 2010 new garden plots by 2010 in time for the Winter Olympics. They started with 950; as of December 31, 2009, 2,029 new garden plots had been cultivated. Developers are getting in on the act now too, adding rooftop community gardens as a selling feature for their high rises.
Community gardens are important gathering places. Not only do they green neighbourhoods and help feed people, but also they build community, reduce crime, encourage healthier lifestyles and provide exercise. With more and more people getting on board the “eat local, buy local, grow local” bandwagon, the movement is growing. Not just because eating close to home helps the environment, but for the health benefits too. If you grow your own food, you know exactly what’s gone into it and that it hasn’t been tinkered with by scientists in a lab.
I am lucky to live in a neighbourhood with several community gardens, although the waiting lists for plots are a couple years long. The majority of the gardens run along the railway tracks. The pathway is a popular stroll and dog walk. There’s even a small fruit orchard at the very end. Cycling enthusiasts want this strip to become a bikeway and green transport activists want to reinstate it as a commuter rail line. Either way, I hope the gardens remain.
I belong to the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House garden, where members garden communally in a back parking lot. We’ve been harvesting beautiful, fresh vegetables all summer long, which really helped with the grocery bill. Fortunately, I made a lot of soups and stews out of the bounty and stuffed them in the freezer, but very soon now, I will have to shell out some green for my salad mix and kale.