Wednesday, May 20, 2009

community gardening thoughts

I just took a look at just at the post and heated discussion on Community Gardens at Garden Rant recently (May 7). Guest Ranter Ed Bruske describes a whole different concept in community gardening. A new way to remove all individuality (and probably pleasure) from of the community gardening and increase efficiency. No thanks! I'd much prefer CSA shares. I'd even rather go to the supermarket ....

... Instead of assigning individual plots, why not form a co-op that would operate more like a farm? Food production would be so much greater, I argued.

... The problem with typical community gardens, as I see it, is that there is no control over what is planted in individual plots. Plot holders operate according to their own individual learning curves. They may be growing a great deal of food, or very little. They may be planting things appropriate for the site, or they may not. They may be putting in a great deal of effort, or they may not be doing much at all, in which case the garden manager at some point is forced to take back the plot and assign it to someone else. As far as overall production in concerned, community gardens are a terribly inefficient use of valuable urban property. (by Guest Ranter Ed Bruske)

I really do love all the different plots and garden styles at the Belmont Victory Gardens. And this year there are SO many active plots! I think about 130 now. Today I'm looking forward to mowing the grass in the paths between all the gardens. I'll bring my camera and photograph the fantastic variety and beauty of the vegetable plots!

click for a slide show of plots at the Belmont Victory Gardens

photo 02 photo 23 photo 28 photo 20
photo 30 photo 36 photo 14 photo 10
victory gardens entrance


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm with you. Ed Bruske is a nice guy (I had a guest post on his blog recently as a matter of fact), but in this instance he is missing the point. Efficient food production is not the primary point of community gardens. I think it's a great idea to mobilize those who *want* to do farming into a collective agriculture operation, but proposing to do so at the expense of current community gardens is hostile and unnecessary. Even in urban settings, there's enough potential green space to accommodate different visions. He should enlist like-minded people, rather than taking shots at gardeners with different priorities.

Leslie said...

I love the surprise aspect of a walk through community gardens, seeing how differently people can approach the same amount of space. The variety is part of the beauty.

Mrs. Finch said...

I would go volunteer at Waltham farms if i wanted to do that! I love love love that Belmont's gardens are all different. I love that some people only grow flowers - some grow nothing but raspberries, some grow corn, chives and garlic and nothing else. I love that I can plant almost whatever I want, and don't have to rely on anyone but myself to grow anything. If Belmont was like Ed's example, I wouldn't have joined at all - and I'd be growing my sad little 40 sq ft garden in the backyard still.

Anonymous said...

I'm also with you. But really, it is up to the organizers of each community garden to identify the mission of that garden, and then stick to it. If they want a farm collective, that's ok, just organize it in such a way from the beginning.

I LOVE seeing the photos of the Belmont Gardens.

Marian(LondonUK) said...

Hi, just read the article, going the route of co-operative/maximum production may ruin the beauty of the allotment or 'community gardens' as they are known over there. It isn't just the individual veggies and flowers that are pleasurable to see and admire, think of the wild life, birds, bugs, butterflies and BEES that those individual plantings encourage. If land is given over how long would it be before every foot and then inch is for crops and nothing else. None of the people I know who have plots are elitist; on our site we have plots gardened by groups of disabled people and on another nearby raised beds were built to facilitate disabled and wheelchair users, communities do come together. I agree some Farmers markets in posh towns are expensive but on our site in East London the growers share their gluts of young plants and resultant produce, why not? It is good food, grown with love and predominantly organic.
Thats my rant!
Marian (LondonUK)

Unknown said...

The only community garden in my city works like a co-op. But it was intended to teach the high school students about agriculture with the help of some local gardeners. The new garden they are considering has 2 options. Either pay $150 a year and the city will tend you garden for you or do it yourself for free. I don't understand who would pay to have some grow your veggies why not just go to the store?

Daphne said...

I had the same reaction when I read that. Community gardens in my mind are not about maximizing food output without regard to personally or individual style, sometimes it isn't even about food at all. I think a vision of a community farm is not a bad one, but it isn't a garden anymore. Most people in community gardens don't want to go work on the farm, they want to putter around their garden and gab over the fence. It is much more low key and more fun.

Nate Finch said...

I think the problem here is one of terminology. What he describes is a community farm co-op. And that's perfectly fine and great and I'd love to have one around. But it's not community gardens. They're just different things. They can coexist next to each other.

Community gardens are about giving individuals or families some space in urban areas to try their hand at gardening... growing whatever they want using whatever methods they want (within reason). As others have said, it's not about efficiency. We're not trying to feed the world. We might not even be trying to feed ourselves. It's a hobby, one that is good for the environment, good for us, and something that should be heartily encouraged, not discouraged. And that's the main problem with his article - the tone of disdain he applies to real community gardens.

Unknown said...

His idea could breed animosity among other things among people in the community garden. The key word there in my mind is community. I would much rather have individualism and friendly attitudes than an undercurrent that could very well boil to the surface and drive people away. I think Mr. Finch is right, in that "Community Gardens" and "Community Farm Co-Ops are two different things. Just simular.

kathy said...

Great comments.

Sounds much better when both options have names, different but similar.

Also, I suppose I'm not a fan of the term 'efficiency', especially when calculated from such a simple equation:

land used -> food produced,

there's a lot more than land being used. It takes effort to coordinate inexperienced volunteers. A beauty of the community plots is that, for the most part, they just happen. And as many above have commented, more than food is produced.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fellow Rock Meadow gardener who is learning quite a bit about gardening and related issues by trying my hand at a garden plot. For me, the educational aspect is invaluable. In addition to the variety of beauty described above, I am learning about how to take care of the land, grow my own food from start to finish, maintain species diversity (this one is still mostly an idea for me at this point) and get my kids involved in all of the above processes and more.

Just as someone with musical knowledge can make a better audience member, someone with a garden can make a better ecologically responsible citizen (not the whole point, but an important one). I think the inefficiencies inherent in community gardens more than pay for themselves.

Jack Wright
Belmont, MA

Mrs. Finch said...

"Efficiency" is the word that bothers me most as well.

It doesn't take 130 people to farm an area that size - look at Belmont CSA - how many people did they have taking care of their whole acre? Certainly not 130. I don't even know how you would organize that many people, have them feel like they were involved in more than just weeding, and keep them happy!

I'm not going to call Ed's idea socialist or any such thing, but it *IS* a different thing than a community garden. It's communal, and a lot of people get those confused. I have to explain the difference all the time when I tell people we have a plot at the community gardens. :)

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to be able to plant exactly what I want, where I want, how I want. And learn from my own mistakes. :)

Dan said...

Gardens should not be harmonious, notions like that will bring about garden associations, can you imagine, yuck!

Your slide show of plots is nice. I really like the one with all the little stones as edging.

Dawnie (CT) said...

Ed sounds like a RepubTard.....wants to take over, control and dictate! CONFORM....and all be the same. No thanks! lol

I prefer the "live and let live" way of life.

Soilman said...

"As far as overall production in concerned, community gardens are a terribly inefficient use of valuable urban property"

Oh dear, oh dear. He just doesn't get it, does he?

'Efficiency' is what we're all desperately trying to get away from at an a community garden or UK allotment site. 'Efficiency' means chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and machinery. That's what commercial farmers do... unfortunately. With all the resulting freakery and horror that they inflict upon our food.

I adore 'inefficiency'. It's tasty, healthy and priceless.

kathy said...

Awesome soilman: "Inefficiency is tasty, healthy and priceless"! So true.