The Village Garden project began as a way to tell a better story to City Administrators of the many benefits community gardens provide them. The benefits have in the past been hard to quantify in terms that make sense on a balance sheet and because of that gardens are often perceived as mostly costs with some amenity benefits noted.
The truth is that city councils stand to make the most benefit from community gardens than any other stakeholders. They provide what can best be described as triple bottom line benefit, social economic and environmental.
At a social level they bring folks in the community from many walks of life and many cultures together in such a way that strengthens the community bond and facilitates resilience at a neighbourhood level, no one gets left out and no one is forgotten.
The mental and physical wellbeing benefits for citizens to access friendly green spaces close to home is becoming increasingly important.
The benefits of locally grown nutrient dense food becomes more important at times of social stress and particularly for communities with lower socioeconomic levels. We’ve experienced this effect during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020.
At an economic level they positively impact city services and infrastructure. Community compost hubs have proven that significant amounts of organic waste can be diverted away from landfill and the greenhouse gas emissions mitigated are significant.
The thriving greens spaces reduce island heat effect and retain water that would otherwise place pressure on the city pipes and stormwater networks.
Environmentally gardens provide important ecological system services and promote biodiversity. Environmental awareness supports climate change ambitions set by city programs and engagement in the act of community gardening helps people feel personally empowered against what are often overwhelming macro circumstances.
It’s clear the benefits are significant and in the new world we live in Community Gardens can serve as a cornerstone asset for a thriving, resilient village and community.
When considering increasing urban density, such as those future scenarios explored through many cities worldwide, we urge City Councils and other related agencies, including property developers, to consider properly planning and funding for Community Gardens and flexible green spaces as part of those developments.
This doesn’t just mean simply funding for a green space, it’s more complicated and very much more comprehensive than that.
But by leveraging the growing body of research coming to light and the examples provided by established community gardens more comprehensive plans can be approached in a such a way that optimises and nurtures the social and environmental potential that we know can come from those green spaces, in a way that suits the local community best.
We’ve completed a research project exploring the many benefits gardens provide so we offer that research, with references, for you to leverage. The literature review may be a good starting point for city administrators to assess the role of community gardens in urban development scenarios.