Finding community in nature's bounty
A community garden allows seniors to bond over a shared love of gardening and building new connections while also helping build resilience, writes Matthew Torre
It had rained the night before a dewy gray morning had dawned. The soil was wet and earthy.
Slowly the seniors came in one by one into the garden, eager to catch up with friends and begin tending to their shared labor. They get to work, pulling out weeds and dumpling a fresh round of fertiliser. The sun begins to peek through clouds, bathing the garden in warmth as insects mill about in the fresh compost.
A gardener tosses a series of nuts in chaotic patterns, a replication of nature’s hand. Each plot is a small introduction of the natural world into the constructed suburbia.
Every Friday morning they arrive, whether in rain or shine, gloom or clear skies, to garden.
Seniors at the local Noble Park Community Centre come together to garden at the community garden where they share tips on gardening and growing food and flowers.
Community gardens similar to this one provide an opportunity to improve the health of the public and increase connections among community members.
A gardener at the Noble Park community garden enjoys the fruits of his labour. Photo: Matthew Torre
Research suggests community gardens are areas in which social capital — the relationships that people build forming reciprocal relationships such as sharing food or taking care of each other's plants — is built. The building of social capital provides the foundations for a strong sense of community, as can be seen in Noble Park.
Community members, each from different cultural backgrounds, assisti their green gardeners in furthering their understanding of how to garden. Community gardens enable people to grow food from within their culture and share this food with others. And they make gardening accessible to people who may not otherwise have the space or opportunity.
Fruit and vegetables grow side by side with flowers in the garden. Photo: Matthew Torres
A community garden can serve as the place in which people living in public housing can participate in gardening, allowing them to interact with a regular social group that shares their same interests. .
Residents at Noble Park community garden grow flowers and other beautifying plants but also grow a variety of vegetables that are shared amongst the garden members. The community garden holds a food exchange event with other local gardeners to share food with the rest of the community.
Community gardens are a growing mode of urban agriculture, with the practice becoming more popular in the light of recent food supply chain issues.
Community gardens have a history of being important during turbulent times such as war or a natural disaster as they can provide a degree of food security.
Studies have also shown that mental health has strong correlation with visible green space.