By Vimbai Ruvengo
A fundamental aspect of community gardening is that it is a shared endeavour, often from the very conception of the project to the management and its maintenance. The gardens can be located on public or private land and may be managed by the gardeners themselves. Participants range from those keen to improve the aesthetic environmental nature of their neighborhoods or farms, to those who perceive community gardens to be a more sustainable source of fruit and vegetables. Some participants are involved for social or health reasons. Community gardens typically emerge as bottom-up initiatives and are tended collectively. They are not only about growing vegetables, but also about growing social networks, and establishing a sense of community.
A great example of this social initiative is at the Blue Gums Farm; where a community gardening competition was held recently. At the start of lockdown Maree Osborne, the owner of the farm wondered what would keep her sane and the workers busy. Maree came to a realization that what was once a model compound needed to be revitalized, and she decided that a community garden competition would be a better idea.
From idea to reality – The initiative started with a noble act of digging a bed to a depth of knee height, which was alternatively layered with soil and manure; to kind participants such as Kate, Marta and Tarryn who donated planting material from their gardens. From there on the project took on a life of its own. Maree noted that the experience in building garden paths, boxer plants, painting dura walls and putting up plants amongst other things was an uplifting experience for her and the participants. Such activities and initiatives are proven to be therapeutic motivation in such trying times. Thanks to this initiative, competition, guidance, and the network they have built, we now see people using free and garden spaces in a whole different perspective.
The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges to our way of life, some of the social initiatives such as that at the Blue Gums Farm are embedding into the norm and fast becoming lasting ways of their small community. It has become their platform for social engagement, gardening is being used as a tool to bring people at and around the farm together, use under-utilized spaces, revitalize the aesthetics of the compound, and engage people in the practice of growing their own food. It also has a sustainable educational element.
Images by Vimbai Ruvengo