Shared green spaces are bringing communities together
There have been so many schemes and projects that have looked at bringing communities together and encouraging people to grow food. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign from the British Ministry of Agriculture is probably the most well known. Shared green spaces all over the country were taken over by allotments and people used their community gardens to grow fruit and vegetables at a time of rationing.
Leap forward to the new millennium, and the increasing awareness of the concept of ‘food miles’ and climate change was brought to the forefront of public interest. New government initiatives alongside the increasing environmental movement have seen the resurgence of shared green spaces and community gardens being used by their local communities for the growing of fruit and vegetables.
The first city farm in the UK opened its gates in 1972. There are now estimated to be over 120 school and city farms and over 1000 community gardens and shared green spaces; excitingly these shared green spaces are almost becoming mainstream.
London city farms and community gardens
Possibly unsurprisingly, London has long had the highest number of community gardens and city farms than any other UK city. They are all set up to encourage people to visit and volunteer. The network offers a fantastic opportunity for the sharing of skills and knowledge, encouraging everyone to get involved regardless of experience. These amazing spaces also offer their sites for venue hire, workshops, after-school clubs, and even crèches!
Manchester City of Science festival
The City of Science Festival in Manchester was held 22nd July 2016 to 29th July 2016 and was a huge success. One of the highlights was an ‘allotment of the future’, created by scientists who were studying the effect that encouraging local people to manage their own urban shared green spaces would have on the preservation of such areas for future generations. Their conclusions suggested that:
“The establishment of community gardens in inner city areas can boost social and ecological sustainability.”
How to encourage local people to get involved with community gardens in their shared green spaces:
- Leadership: community champions or gatekeepers promote the feeling of ownership and responsibility.
- Established and secure sites with regular opening times: people know when they can visit and feel safe there.
- Maintenance: develops the sense of pride in the shared green space
When you introduce plants, you are encouraging and supporting a new habitat. Growing fruit and vegetables requires pollinating insects, which will, in turn, encourage birds and other predators. These new habitats are not just great for plants, but will make the space appealing for the people who are living and working around the area; shared community gardens and green spaces are great for everyone and the environment! The hope here is that the community garden will reinforce that the area is a valuable one to the wider community.
Unsurprisingly, the main problem with maintaining community gardens and shared green spaces is that of finance. Small-scale gardens are relatively inexpensive, but funding for large-scale urban agriculture is scarce.
“What we need is more businesses and more innovative people to get on board and push the practice forward as much as possible.”
There are some amazing examples to be found in little nooks all around the UK of community gardens and shared green spaces that are being used by the communities that surround them are they are helping to bring real change to some of the UKs most marginalized and poorest communities.
Community gardens are everywhere; where is your closest one and how can you get involved today?