Thursday, November 7, 2013

November: Community Gardens

Congratulations to the Pelham Horticultural Society and Pelham Communities in Bloom Committee for putting forward an initiative to create a community garden in Pelham.  The Town, moving with its accustomed caution, is collecting information about whether such a radical project will meet with voters’ favour before committing to it.  If there was ever a no-brainer, this is it. 

Community gardens are public spaces where people in the community can borrow or rent a small plot of land to grow their own vegetables and flowers.  Often, they are developed in conjunction with community housing projects or low income support projects and plots are given free to those in need.  But many are open to rental by anyone with a hankering to do some gardening and no appropriate place to do it.  What is there not to like?

Other Niagara Region communities have been enjoying community gardens for years.  St. Catharines, Grimsby, Niagara Falls, and Welland all have received Regional money to develop and sustain their gardens and according to media reports, they are an enormous success, both with people who might need some help with putting veggies on the table, and those who volunteer some time to show them the gardening ropes.  Climate Action Niagara lists eleven community gardens on their website, including gardens in Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Welland, and Chippewa. There’s one at Brock University, another at Niagara College’s Welland Campus, another at the Vineland Research Centre, and on.  As welcome as the Pelham initiative is, one can’t help but wonder what took so long!

The benefits of a community garden are many, besides the obvious one of supplying wholesome, home grown food, especially to those in need, a concept that is a the heart of Slow Food Movement.  There is the beautification of our town, along with community pride in undertaking a worthwhile project, combined with an increased sense of community as experienced gardeners share their secrets with novices.  And the environment will thank us for an intelligent use of vacant land, and the fostering of awareness about our food supply and food growing practices.

Is there a down side?  I certainly don’t see one.  If a community garden costs taxpayers a few dollars, it is money well spent for benefits that can make an important immediate impact, and potentially some really significant, long term, sustainable improvements to our community.

However, the Town wants our feedback on a survey before they take the next step of actually discussing the issue and maybe, eventually sending it to committee, getting staff to provide input and recommendations, debating it at Council, and one day, maybe in our lifetimes, approving a community garden project for Pelham.  Oh well, we have to start somewhere, so go to  and fill out the survey.  This is a bandwagon we can all jump on with pride and pleasure.