Community gardens not only provide sustainable living and food security, they also create a much needed sense of belonging, a Murdoch University student found out on her recent trip to Cuba and North America.
Sustainable Development and Planning student, Christina Snowdon, spent three months in Cuba and North America researching state-run and community gardens. She spoke to groups in Havana, Los Angeles, Berkley, Oakland, Portland and Seattle.
Christina said Australia could draw heavily from the gardens in North America and Cuba.
“Community gardens can provide a sense of place in the public realm in a progressively privatised world. They provide a forum for people to engage with each other in an informal, relaxed way,” Christina said.
She said while many gardens were locked and for private use throughout the US, she was impressed with Seattle, which has an extensive community gardening program that encourages involvement from everybody in the city.
“Community gardens in Seattle are public places and as such many people treat them like parks, utilising the spaces for lunch or meetings or just passing through. This is one of the small but very useful strategies that Seattle utilises to promote inclusion and community engagement.”
Western Australia has 26 community gardens and another 14 are under construction but Christina believes we could be doing a lot more to encourage collaborative sustainable agriculture.
“I realised while in the US that the potential for community gardening in Australia is largely untapped,” she said.
“Although many city councils in Australia are beginning to promote community gardening, I think there is so much more potential that could be tapped into. I think it is very important to create strong collaborations between community, government and businesses to provide opportunities for growth and expansion.
“I think it is very important that gardens are accessible and inclusive, so that all members of our community (including marginalised members) can participate in them and be involved in the community in meaningful ways.”