Urban farming and urban community gardening offer a variety of benefits for local communities and residents, while they contribute to the broader food security and food justice efforts in the city. They provide a valuable green space in neighborhoods that often lack such facilities, they provide fresh, organic fruits and vegetables at a low cost, help cultivate knowledge about food production and healthy eating, and can bring together community members from a variety of ethnic, socio-economic and personal backgrounds in a shared community project.
MetaConnects team member Garrett Broad was fortunate enough to be a part of a group that helped found Fountain Community Gardens in East Hollywood a few years ago – along with several other community members, they worked with Eric Garcetti's City Council Office and received support from the LA Community Garden Council and LA Conservation Corps to build a community garden. What was once a vacant lot that was a hotbed of crime and an eyesore for community residents was turned into a vibrant space where hundreds of residents can come in and out on a given week. It has developed into what we at MetaConnects like to call a “Communication Asset” – a place in the community where residents come together to engage in shared conversation and positive social interaction.
With that said, community gardens face a variety of challenges, many of them related to communication. As valuable as it can be, a community garden alone will not transform a neighborhood into one of perfect community life.
Factors to Consider when Planning a Community Garden:
These are challenges that Fountain Community Gardens and others have faced over time. Indeed, some of these challenges and tensions might never quite go away. However, they can be managed by being honest about the obstacles that are faced and by making explicit efforts to handle them as best as possible. If this is the case, community gardens can serve as a valuable communication asset that can work to strengthen the community's neighborhood storytelling network.