Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The little island where my mother owns a vacation cabin, is home to the most amazing community garden. It's called D.I.G.S. (Douglas Island Garden Society) and is funded completely by donations (the initial funding came from a City grant) and worked on completely by local islanders volunteering their time and hard work.
My mom even donated an old potting shed that was on her property and it now stands, freshly painted at the front of the D.I.G.S. Community Garden. The Garden gate is never locked and everyone is welcome to come in, walk around and enjoy the garden. Sunflowers, tomatoes (including heirloom), squash, carrots, berries, rhubarb, chard, lettuce, herbs, onions, beans, hot peppers... they grow it all in abundance and with great success.
Every Sunday from 10am-12pm, fresh produce is available at the little stand (Anna's Store) for free or by donation. The other day I got a bunch of celery, fresh picked that morning, with all the leafy tops still attached. My cousin got fresh green beans and my other cousin got poppy seeds. We dropped a few loonies and toonies ($1 and $2 Canadian coins) in an old rubber boot and off we went with our goods.
D.I.G.S. is an amazingly successful and impressive community initiative. Across the country, more and more, city leaders and stakeholders are embracing the community garden concept and are donating city land for use as garden space. There are many reasons to support community gardens. Along with providing local residents access to fresh, local produce, community gardens also increase the sense of community and belonging for those working in the garden as well as those living in the area. This is no more apparent then on the island where D.I.G.S. operates. Each Sunday morning the local islanders meet up at the Garden to exchange produce, share stories, work in the dirt and interact. They also have a children's program where kids learn about gardening and participate in craft activities. In the Summer a "Garden Walk" is organized, where islanders tour each other's gardens, giving the "green thumbs" a chance to showcase their hard work and the others a chance to enjoy it. Afterwards, they all get together at someone's house for a barbecue. I have always been amazed and impressed with how a simple garden can do so much to bring people together.
Urban community gardens also provide much needed green space in an otherwise sparse urban landscape and help to beautify neighbourhoods. An old gas station lot at the corner of Burrard and Davie, in the heart of Downtown Vancouver was recently turned into a thriving community garden. Another one has been operating for years on a stretch of old decommissioned train track off Fir Street in Kitsilano.
Along with neighbourhood beautification, some also believe that areas with community gardens have lower instances of crime, particularly with regards to vandalism, because the area residents take more of an interest in their neighbourhoods (the same is true for areas with organized Neighbourhood Associations). (Source). Alternatively, other studies have indicated that while community gardens do not actually impact crime rates, area residents perceive their neighbourhood as safer because of the presence of the gardens. (Source). Regardless of studies and stats, the fact is, community gardens are good for neighbourhoods, cities and area residents.
Check here to find a Community Garden in your neighbourhood (Greater Vancouver only) and do what you can to take part! Get involved, volunteer, donate. Do what you can to support these great community programs. If your community does not have one and you want to take part, contact your City Hall parks department to get the ball rolling! Check this post on how to start a Community Garden, including tips on how to secure land and sponsorship and how to organize your garden society.
For more on Community Gardens, check here.