Putting the “Community” in Community Gardens

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of helping to facilitate a family garden workshop. The workshop took place in a community garden located in West Louisville. Due to spontaneous rain showers there was a low turn-out but five enthusiastic souls blessed us with their presence. My co-worker and I were responsible for leading the youth portion of the workshop. Only one child was in attendance so our “youth workshop” transformed into a conversation about the neighborhood, how it had changed over the years and the impact of integration.

One community member was a fifty year old grandmother who had resided in the area her entire life. She told us stories about the land on which we stood; how it was once a school then a church, more recently it all but abandoned before it was cultivated into garden. She gave us a tour of her plot and explained that she loved to garden with her grandchildren. She gardens as a form of recreation and admitted that she was but a novice; even so, the activity of learning by trial and error brought her joy. She invited us to pick radishes from her plot. It was obvious that the act of sharing what she had worked so hard to produce granted her a sense of accomplishment.

 By the time I said my farewells I had five radishes, an onion and three zucchinis. With the above ingredients I went home and prepared a delicious vegetable soup with rice. As I devoured my meal, I couldn’t help but notice that it seemed to taste better than usual. With each spoon full of veggie goodness I remembered that woman. I thought of the stories she told. I thought of her generosity. I was reminded that community gardens are not solely meant to be a space for growing produce but they are a space intended to grow and nurture a sense of community.