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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2005

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and the Environment

Abstract

Research on community gardens is an increasingly important area of study. As the percentage of the global population living in cities continues to climb, community gardens have the ability to reach increasing numbers of people. Previous research has shown that these spaces allocated for the growing of vegetables, flowers, fruit and/or herbs, produce many outcomes reaching beyond their members and into the surrounding environment. Studies indicate that this localized method of food production is able to reduce food costs for those involved, serve as an educational tool and provide a platform for community building, socialization, neighborhood renewal, and environmental remediation. Forming in early twentieth century Britain, community gardens emerged on a global scale following WWII and first appeared in Melbourne, Australia in 1977. Today, there are fifty community gardens in Melbourne. In an effort to accomplish my study goal, conducting case studies of community gardens in Melbourne, this research paper focuses on four such gardens.

The aims of this study: to learn about different community gardens, including how and why they became what they are today, to understand the people who garden and gain insight into their motivations, and to discover the many outcomes of their participation, have been undertaken in an effort to provide an increased awareness of community gardens. A combination of data collection methods proved to be the best way to reach these aims. I conducted informal and formal interviews, was a detached observer and at times participated and worked in the gardens.

Results reveal that there are a wide range of community gardens and people who spend time in them. The community gardens under study have a range of objectives, management styles, physical layouts and plot structures, and have varying levels of member satisfaction and involvement. Gardeners have several reasons for their participation and the outcomes of their contributions are numerous. An analysis shows that each community garden creates feelings and impressions which are very unique to that specific space. A garden’s management also greatly contributes to its perceived effectiveness. Community gardens provide educational, personal, communal, and environmental benefits and can be sites of minimal negativity or conflict. Overall, if a community garden is to thrive it must be an unlocked area open to the public with a variety of communal areas and easily manageable plots, which, managed by a volunteer committee, betters the environment, is always improving, and constantly works to satisfy its members. A successful community garden has the potential to reach out to many people and make a valuable contribution to the urban landscape.

Disciplines

Agricultural and Resource Economics

 

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