Community, Gardening, Garden

Of late, I have been pondering all of the above. Gardening is an intimate activity in some ways – you are producing food that you, your family and loved ones eat, you are tending and nurturing, providing. Also protecting (and killing). Perhaps it’s a basic expression of your survival ability; to hunt, gather, grow. (There, we can blame Darwin, again!)

Without coming across as a stick-in-the-mud, things-were-better-in-my day, or just simply a grumpy-old-gardener, it does seem that individualism mostly rules. It’s always easier and less fraught just to do your own thing, rather than have to converse, negotiate, compromise, accede, assert. I can appreciate the need to individualise, or to be self sufficient, but when it comes to gardening, well, there’s always an excess, or famine. And so shouldn’t we all share in that?  And also, most crucially, the resources that create it?

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Many community gardens thrive then die, all because of people, timing, need (eg drought, fire), season, circumstances, funding, will, energy, politics, people. We have had many visits and visitors from all over the State each year, all wanting to know what we do and how, yearning to create their own … well, something like our garden. Yes, the space our garden creates, or inhabits, is special. But we are still only young in gardening years and we can’t really show ourselves as a community of gardeners. Or maybe we are?

We are approaching our 5th year as a community garden and for the past one have been trying to re-invent, or at least re-energise. Easier said if you’re an inner-city, groovy locale with a waiting list akin to the MCG members, but here in Newstead, well … We do know people right across the community appreciate the garden, visit, pick from it, show their friends and relations through it, but that doesn’t often correspond to actual gardening membership, fellowship, contribution, give and take, connection and, importantly, work in the garden. I know some aren’t as passionate about the soil and plants and growing plants (and community) as others. Life has higher/other priorities. Everyone is different.

I guess it’s not just an issue for our garden, but more importantly, rural community life everywhere and anywhere? A few take on the legwork of keeping things running and maybe humming, for all. Getting together to talk about our priorities, participation and and how we manage our garden to share the efforts and the rewards and the lovely company and interactions that the garden brings is my wish for 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Community, Gardening, Garden

  1. mecsanders says:

    Hi Janet,
    I wanted to let you know you are not alone. I’m at one of those inner city gardens you mentioned above and we have many of the same issues you mention as far as engagement and participation (in fact we’re meeting next week to try to tackle them). That’s not to say that the causes are the same (they may or may not be) but I feel for you.

    The ‘community’ part of community gardening is really the hard part. It’s difficult and takes time, effort and persistence to establish a culture of contribution and fellowship. What a tremendous thing to strive for and (hopefully) eventually achieve though.

    May your wish for 2015 come true!
    (and if you crack the secret, let us all know eh?)

    • janet barker says:

      Thanks for your support … maybe we need a regional network of community gardens to draw inspiration, heart and energy from (and also model the idea of connection and engagement) but it’ll probably be all the same souls! Love to know how your meeting goes.

  2. Saide of Sandon says:

    Umm definitely food for thought! I often find I wish to spend more time in the community garden than I can find in my life busy with grandchildren, another couple of properties and my own creative pursuits. Maybe we have become used to individualism as a cultural ‘way of being’. Although most of us yearn for some shared social activities. If these shared actions can be fun and fruitful at the same time, then being part of such activities is all the more enticing.

    Getting together for regular talks about participating in the management, the dirt work, and in the sharing of the harvest rewards of a community garden can be a real joy. Sometimes it is easier to converse about these things, while sharing the shelling of peas or broadbeans, or classing the garlic. Or at the Monthly Produce Exchange between gardeners and growers.

    One of the things that I think we do well is liaising with other community groups locally. The local prison assists with seedlings, the men’s shed with furniture, some local businesses with a home for the produce exchange, local artists have shared their visions and creativity, the church share their land and we share a community water supply and our knowledge of gardening and growing things. A culture of contribution and collegiality contributes to community building, and this takes nurturing, patience and practice – a bit like gardening really, constant tending!

    Part of the conversation could be about how successful we wish to be. Sometimes it seems that the more successful we are, the more work there is and that is both invigorating and enthusing, but can also be overwhelming, if a few people feel more responsible for initiating follow-up actions than others.

    If we met for an annual gathering of people from the region’s community gardens we could talk over some of these issues, learn from what has worked, what hasn’t and share some success stories. Time to reflect and some fresh eyes to look can be very insightful.

    Interested to read other people’s responses and experiences.

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