The spirit of community gardens

A beautiful way to bring people together, grow your own food and share knowledge and lifelong skills

Words Kahu de Beer. Photography Claire Price

A few years ago a friend of mine invited me along to our local community garden in Mount Maunganui. I have to admit, I didn’t even know we had one! I arrived with my little ones in tow and we spent a sunny afternoon watering, picking, pushing wheelbarrows around (with the kids in of course), and exploring all the different produce being grown in the plots. The garden felt like a little sanctuary where we could come and escape, and connect with nature again.

Community gardens can be found in almost every part of the country, from schools to maraes, churches to council land, and are proving to be a winning concept for those who aren’t able to have a garden at home. They’re also a great way to de-stress, eat better, get exercise, and meet others in your area.

By joining your local community garden you will gain access to a garden bed, and everything else you need to start growing your own fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Many of these types of gardens are volunteer run, but each is unique and has its own way of doing things. Some charge a small annual fee for a set amount of garden space, while others operate on a basis where everyone does their bit and then gets a share in what is grown. Some will provide you with on-site mentors and workshops as well.

Eating locally grown, organic produce is a big part of the more natural lifestyle many are wanting to create – community gardens provide an achievable way for the everyday person to do this. There are a huge number of health benefits to be gained from eating this way; it can even help to reduce seasonal allergies and asthma by exposing you to pollen from your area, which builds immunity to local flowering plants and trees. Those who are part of a community garden generally eat healthier and more nutrient-rich diets than they usually would. We tend to eat what is around, so if we grow broccoli, we’ll eat broccoli.

With many crops worldwide now being genetically modified, community gardens are a way of keeping non-GMO heritage seeds going strong for future generations. A number of them do seed swaps which can give you access to varieties of produce that may not be available on grocery shelves. For those of us who are wanting to eat as natural a diet as possible, community gardening is a low cost way of doing this.

Community gardens have been shown to have major positive effects on the neighbourhoods they’re located in, including reducing crime rates and making areas more desirable to live and work in. They are a practical way of creating a more sustainable way of life in urban environments. In cities, especially lower socio-economic areas, they are particularly important as they provide green living space which is often a rare commodity. Community gardens promote an environmentally and socially just food system which benefits all of us.

One of the most beautiful aspects of community gardening is the way it brings people together from different backgrounds, ages, and walks of life. It is a setting which can give older people in the community a voice and a sense of purpose as they are able to share knowledge with those who are just starting out. It is also an ideal environment for children to be a part of as it encourages and empowers them to be able to grow their own food and make healthy eating choices. Gardening has a way of eliminating social hierarchy; everyone is welcome and is there for a common purpose.

To find a community garden in your area, have a search online or get in touch with your local council who may be running such initiatives in your locality. There are well over 100 in Auckland alone.

Community gardens around the country

Northland · Bank Street Community Garden, 9 Bank St, Whangarei 0112.

Auckland · Devonport Community Garden, Mt Cambria Reserve (next to the Devonport Museum). Accessed from either Vauxhall Rd or Church St · Woodside Community Garden, Woodside Reserve, 28 Woodside Rd, Massey · Kelmarna Organic City Farm, 12 Hukanui Cres, Ponsonby.

Waikato · Coromandel Organic Community Garden, Glover St, beside Hauraki House, Coromandel · Grandview Community Garden, 180 Grandview Road, Nawton, Hamilton.

Bay of Plenty · Ngāhuia Rina Gardens, 30 Wakaunua Rd, Rūātoki · Mount Community Garden, May Street Reserve, Mt Maunganui.

Taranaki · New Start Community Garden, Saxton Rd, New Plymouth.

Hawke’s Bay · Waipawa Primary School Community Garden, Harker St, Waipawa.

Wellington · Owhiro Bay Community Garden, 72 Happy Valley Rd, Owhiro Bay. Innermost Gardens, Lawson Place, Mt Victoria.

Whanganui · Aramoho Community Garden and Food Forest, Wai Ora, 49 Brunswick Rd, Aramoho.

Nelson · Motueka Organic Community Gardens, Old Wharf Rd.

Golden Bay · Community Gardens / Sustainable Living Centre, 24 Waitapu Road, Takaka, NZ.

Canterbury · Rangiora Community Garden, 115 East Belt, Rangiora. · Kaiapoi Community Garden, 48-52 Hilton St, Kaiapoi.

Westcoast · Fitzherbert Street Community Garden, Fitzherbert St, Hokitika.

Dunedin · Dunedin Community Gardens, Shetland Street Reserve, Kaikorai Valley.

Queenstown · Harvest Community Garden, Gorge Rd, Queenstown.

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