As the temperature here in New York City has finally warmed above the freezing mark, we inevitably begin to long for even warmer temperatures and the ability to get out into the garden. It is also a time when folks begin to think about finding a community garden to join or to start one. In some of my previous posts you may have read about the many benefits attributed to community gardens. There are social benefits of meeting your neighbors, interacting with people of different cultures, of being a member of a supportive group, of feeling good about something you are doing. There are environmental benefits like restoring ruined land, providing habitat for insects and birds, combating climate change, preserving biodiversity and managing storm water. There are community benefits of cleaning up the neighborhood, increasing property values and providing a safe environment for children and seniors. There are the personal health benefits of eating fresh, local, organic, pesticide free produce, of exercise and of positive impacts on mental health. I am probably leaving out a few.
All of these things do not mysteriously grow out of a plot of vacant land. They all take time and work by a group of people to create these benefits. So one should not expect to walk into a community garden, have the sun shine on you and be blessed with all of the benefits mentioned above.
A more likely scenario is that you might be greeted warmly but warily by a community gardener. You will have to prove yourself and gain the trust of others. You will be faced with a set of rules that usually contain the words don't and can't. You will have to do physical work that might leave you sore and achy for days afterward. You may face disappointment at being given a plot that is in the shade or is much smaller than you expected. You may also be told that you are joining as a provisional or apprentice member and you will have to spend a year or more working on common areas to prove yourself before being given a plot of one's own. You may have to sit through endless meetings to make simple decisions. Your garden may be threatened by the municipal government or a developer wishing to use the land for other purposes. You may have your plants, vegetables of flowers damaged or stolen by pests both by humans and other species.
Why should I join a community garden? Is it worth it?
Of course you know I think it is.
What do you think?