Community in the Community Garden

Where does community come from? Is it something that can be consciously created or does it just grow where it’s needed? Can community activities, like growing food, running a community center be completely self-driving without paid staff or a formal entity governing them? What does a successful self governing community look like?

These and many others are the questions I’ve been contemplating lately. I actively participated in a community garden last year. A community garden, I think like no other. This was not a garden where you rent a four foot by eight food bed and grow the things you choose in your own autonomous space. In this garden, there were 72 beds and about 25 of us gardened all 72 of them together. The things we planted, we decided together. Where we planted them, we decided together. Who watered what days, we decided together. When we harvested, we harvested together.

I’ve never been a more successful gardener than I was last year in that garden. I got more food, had more fun, made more friends, shared more emotions, learned more than I ever had as a gardener by myself. And I’ve been growing food at home, for years, a lot of  years.

As I reflect on the past year, I wonder if it’s sustainable though. Or even if the model can be replicated. Because no matter how much the community came together to create, work, and grow in this space, there were leaders. Leaders that pushed the vision forward, created the tenets for us to reflect on and make decisions with as members of the garden, managed the small amount of funds we had, pulled together meetings, and solved unforeseen problems.

So, how do we encourage natural community driven regenerative leadership, without allowing greed or power hunger to grow? How do we  truly teach that we are better together, in a strong interdependent, trusting community?

It’s a lot to think about. I want to find the answers, I want to figure these things out so more parts of our larger community can have similar experiences, so more people can come together and learn, and find joy in growing their own food.

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