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Monday, May 10, 2010

Community garden dilemmas

I have mentioned in previous blogs how community gardens are places where people from different backgrounds and cultures have a chance to interact and govern themselves. That is often easier said than done and in some cases there are physical barriers that make it even more difficult. For example I recently spent time in a community garden that is actually 2 gardens separated by a 5 story building that splits the garden in two. The garden is run by a steering committee and a number of committees oversee various aspects of the garden. The difficulty is that gardeners from one side of the building are concerned about what happens on their side of the garden and could care less about what happens on the other side. Gardeners from each side are envious of any improvements that come to the other side. They would rather see anything that might take away garden space like a water system or compost bins on the other side. Not a prescription for harmony in the garden.

I know of a similar situation where 2 gardens are back to back. The gardens form a continuous green space that extends from street to street but there is a fence between the two gardens that neither garden is interested in removing. How did this situation come to be? A few years ago the gardens received city funding to install an in-ground water system. At the time one of the gardens was much more developed and organized than the other. The gardeners from the more developed garden were somehow able to get the water brought in to the less developed garden including the obtrusive above ground unit that contains the shut off and back flow preventer equipment. After this the less developed garden became more organized and decided to keep the water on their side, not wanting to further disrupt their garden to extend the piping to the garden on the other side of the fence. It became a clash of cultures and income levels. The disputants have resisted attempts at mediation and today both are beautiful gardens physically but the ugly dispute still continues below the surface beauty. One garden has a water system and the other uses the fire hydrant.

I can't say that I have the answers to resolve these particular situations. It is difficult enough for community gardeners to sustain-ably govern themselves in normal situations but introduce money or valuable equipment to the equation or attempt to take away limited space and the task becomes almost impossible.

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