Community Engagement

Example: An Imagined Community Garden

Over a series of brunches, a group of neighbors came together and decided to form a neighborhood association in order to facilitate special events and projects. As they researched the possible ways to form their association, they discovered the Model Communities collaborative structure.

Circles were formed for the different projects: a 5k for cancer awareness, the annual picnic, who would bring the champagne for the monthly brunch meeting. As the group grew, the need for a community garden emerged.

Two neighbors had purchased a plot of land between their homes several years earlier to preserve it from another house being shoehorned into the neighborhood. As they listened to the concerns and needs of the new garden circle, an idea emerged. If they allowed the garden circle to build their community garden on this piece of land, they wouldn’t have to share mowing duty anymore. And the entire community could benefit from an attractive, productive garden. Plus, they could get some yummy organic produce!

With the piece of land for the garden reserved, the garden circle could progress to the planning stages. Using the resources of the group, they were able to bring in an expert to advise them on how to create the most productive garden possible. Over the next year, they settled on a plan, broke ground, and began gardening.

The garden circle wanted the garden to serve the community in two ways. First, to enhance the healing connection between people and the earth. They encouraged and enabled folks to engage with the garden, assisting with the care and harvest. Second, they wanted to feed their neighbors, and everyone who engaged with the garden received a share of the bounty. Sure, sometimes that meant getting veggies that were totally alien to the viewer, but isn’t experimentation exciting? And Delores certainly enjoyed the Jerusalem artichokes.

Eventually, the garden became the hub of the neighborhood association, and people would gather there for the monthly brunch meetings during the warm seasons. Sipping champagne among the sunflowers, smiling as they met over weeding, and enjoying a simple salad made from their homegrown produce all soon became a tradition no one was willing to relinquish.

While this neighborhood association example is imagined, the reality of how a neighborhood garden can positively affect a community has been shown time and again. If you want to create your own community garden, start with Collard Greens and Common Grounds: A North Carolina Community Food Gardening Handbook.