Many of the benefits of community gardening are obvious. Spending time outdoors helps clear the mind and exercise the body. Planting non-genetically modified seeds yields healthier food and pulls the plug from a thoughtless support of food industries that only care about profits. Finally, fruits and vegetables grown in one’s “backyard” can help save quite a bit of money.
There is one aspect to community gardening, however, that is often overlooked. Such gardens have the capacity to serve as community builders by bridging the gaps experienced by different sub-groups of people. Otherwise, it is likely that these folks would never work together under different circumstances. The common desire and need for food and for connecting with the land can lead to an authentic unity. This unity can be the result of members moving beyond their respective comfort zones without having to deny their identity.
This kind of community building effort is critical at a place like P.S. 122. Our school is made up of many different sub-groups or communities. For example, within our building we have an elementary school as well as a middle school population of students. In addition, we have students that attend general, special, and gifted education programs. Also, our school has many students that are English Language Learners (ELLs). We should not forget that all schools are made up of students and adults. The sub-group of adults is comprised of the faculty and other staff as well as the parents that send their children to our school.
As you can imagine, our future community garden can help bring all of these sub-groups together. We can enjoy spending time getting to know each other while doing the physical work involved with growing some delicious food for our school’s consumption. One of the many outcomes of working in each other’s presence will be the development of a mutual understanding and respect. Ultimately, the lives of everyone involved will be enriched and the school as a whole will be nourished in more ways than one.
Check out the following links if you are interested in learning more about the community building potential of group gardening: