Community gardens produce more than local and nutritious food. They also produce other resilience-building activities, such as community capacity building, civic engagement and mobilization for collective action on key issues.
|Three gardeners start work at Troy Gardens on opening day |
in 2010. Photo courtesy of Community GroundWorks.
Troy Gardens, in Madison, WI, is an award-winning 31-acre mixed-use development in Madison, WI, that supports community building as well as food production. Saved from development in 1996 by a coalition of community residents, nonprofit organizations (including the Center for Resilient Cities) and university partners, the project was grounded, quite literally, in the work of community gardeners who organized to save a critical community asset. Community GroundWorks, the now 10-year-old organization that resulted from this collective action, manages the 26 acres of agricultural land and open space on site. Here, people of all ages can grow their own food, receive organic produce from a five-acre community-supported agriculture farm and develop skills in food preparation and preservation.
Troy Gardens is not just about food. The site also includes natural areas where community residents, high school and university students and the public at large restore and manage woodlands and prairie. Through hands-on learning, field trips and educational programs such as Urban Forestry 101, offered by Community GroundWorks, youth and adults foster biological diversity in their own community – and in some cases, right by their front doors!
|Gardeners and friends gather together at Alice's Garden in October 2010.|
In Milwaukee, Alice’s Garden is a two-acre community garden located just minutes from downtown, in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood. Here, more than 110 families representing various ethnic groups grow organic produce. But activities at Alice’s Garden extend beyond food production to promoting healthy lifestyles, building social networks and working toward racial healing. Events range from “Guys, Grills and Gardens” to biodynamic gardening to celebrations of African-American history and culture. Programming also includes reading circles, science and art lessons in the garden, chess and checkers, yoga for all ages, and cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. In the summer of 2010, the community designed and constructed a labyrinth for walking meditation, contemplation and enlightenment.
Community gardens, an important locus of food production, are a cornerstone of a resilient community. And, as Troy Gardens and Alice’s Garden demonstrate, they are also a portal to additional activities that enhance resilience.
As long-time Troy Community Gardener John Bell once said, they are “democratic free spaces,” where trust-building and development of collective interests take place through day-to-day interactions and conversations of a diverse group of people. (For information on free spaces, read this book.) Michael Bell, Director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has termed these conversations as “dialogues of sentiment” and “dialogues of solidarities.” We’ll explore these two concepts in a future post, as we look at how food system transformation builds resilience.