5 December 2014
When I was visiting Vancouver a couple of years ago, I noticed a few community gardens, and thought it seemed a good use of land which would have remained unproductive otherwise. Fortunately there are people in the UK following the same path.
Community gardens have been an important source of food for hundreds of years, and during the Second World War community allotments in inner cities provided affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to the local population.
The contemporary community gardening movement in the UK developed in the late 1960s with a renewed interest in green spaces in cities. Community gardens were often created when local residents transformed vacant sites into green spaces that included vegetable plots and flower gardens. These spaces have sometimes evolved to help address social and health problems.
Community gardens today come in all shapes and sizes, including tiny plots, roof gardens, school gardens, either private or open to the public. What can be achieved depends to an extent on the size of the plot available. They can provide fresh fruit and vegetables, improved play areas, an outdoor classroom, a home for wildlife and safe, well-maintained public spaces. Many of these spaces will be members of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, and will be run by a management committee formed by local people, usually working on a voluntary basis.
The Women's Environmental Network (WEN) has also been working for a number of years to bring minority women together to form community vegetable and herb gardens, as part of the Taste of a Better Future Network. It recognises that such groups have little access to affordable healthy food, particularly traditional fruit and vegetable varieties, or to gardens of their own. WEN's community food growing initiatives encourage women to come out of their immediate family circles to grow fresh food and learn new skills by gardening with other people.
Community gardens can help bring different cultures and generations together, improving individual and community confidence and bridging the divide between ethnic, political and socio-economic groups.
The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens is a registered charity which supports, represents and promotes community-managed farms, gardens, allotments and other green spaces, creating opportunities for local communities to grow, both in urban and rural areas.
The organisation represents nearly 200 city and school farms, more than 1,000 community gardens, a growing number of community-managed allotments and an estimated 200 city farms and community gardens in development. It also provides the national face of the community farm and garden movement, promoting its work and raising its profile with decision-makers, funders, the public and the media.
For further information visit the website www.farmgarden.org.uk
If you are interested, look out for a community garden near you.