Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Community Gardens: A Tool for Community Building

By Dena Sacha Warman
A Senior Honours Essay
Presented to the University of Waterloo in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Urban and Regional Planning
Waterloo, Ontario 1999


I would like to thank my advisor, Laura C. Johnson who was supportive through a process we were both learning. For the information she shared with me about research and writing. As well I would like to thank her for her approachable demeanour and extremely quick turn-around on drafts of this paper.

I would also like to thank Bob Gibson, Mary-Louis McAllister and Bin Newell who took the time out of their busy professional lives to read over a draft of this paper and give helpful comments.

As well I would also like to thank my Mom, Lora Warman, my friend Andrew Craig for drudging through the very first draft of this paper. I must thank my friend, Krista Gunther who helped with my final draft.

Finally I thank all those that responded to my survey; without their time and effort put into answering some very difficult questions, the body of this paper who not be.

Thanks to everyone who has been helpful and supportive throughout the entire process.


This paper begins with a literature review (Chapter One) that summarises the varied information on community gardening. Chapter Two is a brief history that documents the beginnings of community gardening and its cyclic existence. Chapter Three introduces the survey, which involved garden co-ordinators from the Waterloo Region; it includes explanation about the purpose, methodology, and rate of response for the mailed survey. Chapter Four analyses the survey responses and briefly describes the gardens, the garden organisations and the gardeners. Chapter Five focuses on the goals of the gardens and identifies how the gardens affect the gardeners and the community. Chapter Six discusses how Community Gardens can be preserved and encouraged, be they municipal, community or organisation based. Finally, in Chapter Seven the author gives her own reflections on her research and findings.

This study began as an attempt to demonstrate that government administered Community Gardens are not as productive as neighbourhood gardens, but it ends with the realisation that any garden can be successful with the proper ingredients.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Literature Review

Chapter 2- A Brief History of Community Gardening

Chapter 3 - Waterloo Region Community Garden Survey

Chapter 4 -From The Survey

Chapter 5- From the Survey; Goals, Benefits and Effects

Chapter 6 - Results, Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter 7

Chapter 1 - Literature Review

"What has been springing up in the Gardens?"

Why Study Community Gardens?

The author of this report is very interested in community development and community initiatives. Community Gardening is a particularly interesting form of community development, which can have social, economic, environmental and political impact on a community. This research was initiated to explore the effects that Community Gardens (CGs) have on the community with the intent of identifying the actual benefits or detriments. Another purpose of the investigation was to identify those particular aspects of community gardening that make it such a powerful tool for building strong, self-reliant communities.

The researcher's questions were: do community initiatives like community gardening create more resilient and productive community members? What benefits do community gardens bring to the community? How can a city develop workable community gardens? Are resident initiated gardens more effective in developing a 'sense of community'than government or organisation developed gardens?

With these questions in mind, the author began the investigation with a background review of published literature, to develop a comprehensive understanding of community gardens. This research also helped establish the line of questioning, developed for the survey, that probed into the goals and benefits of community gardens in the Waterloo Region. The library research and the survey were used to formulate conclusions about the benefits and obstacles facing community gardeners.


If one looks in the right places, there is a substantial amount of information on Community Gardening. It was found that one of the best ways to locate useful information was from the bibliographies of several very informative pieces of literature concerning CG. Sources were found: on the Internet; in journals on organic farming, landscape architecture and sociology; books; and various academic and government reports. To gain a general grounding in the subject, this researcher began searching for sources on community gardening. This unstructured search lead to information that was varied and gave a general overview of the topic. This literature review will document the information gathered which helps provide a general background on the topic of Community Gardening.

This review of the literature defines CGs and their history, discusses the reasons why they may develop, describes who participates and why, identifies the threats to these gardens and proposes future actions to support Community Gardening.

What is Community Gardening?

To begin, it had to be established what Community Gardening encompasses within this study. Although various Community Gardening groups label their projects differently, there are food-growing projects in urban areas that are not being discussed in this study. These are Urban Farming, which usually refers to urban food production in third world countries. Another type that will not be included in this study is Community Supported Agriculture, which is an agreement between a farmer and a community to support each other (Nugent, 1998, City Farmer Homepage).

Another name for Community Gardening is "city greening." Marti Ross Bjornson refers to Community Gardening as greenlining; as opposed to redlining, a political term, which he believes only serves to further isolate residents from the community (Malakoff, 1995). David Goode refers to "city greening" as the process of re-introducing people to ecologically sound living. He says "by building cities the way we have, we are divorcing ourselves from nature" (Gordon, 1990, 2). Usually Community Gardening is only considered part of the process when 'greening'a city. Some only consider a garden a CG if the users are the instigators, developers, and maintainers of the site (Barker, 1997). On the other hand, Thomas Ashelford classified a certain project as a CG when it was completely developed and built without any input from the community (Ashelford 1991, 1). This author makes no attempt to classify what "is" or "is not" a community garden. Any garden whose participants consider it a CG will be treated as such in this paper and the survey analysis.

Community Gardening is difficult to define. Some consider that the function of Community Gardening is to make land available to those who have none, but many community gardeners do have their own land. Therefore, it is concluded that beyond the physical benefits of land, fresh food and green space and beyond the urban revitalisation benefits of community development, Community Gardening most important benefits are based on social interaction. The common theme in CGs is the social aspects of the garden. The social interaction can be as basic as acknowledging another gardener or as complex as developing a system of support and friendship among the gardeners.

A Taste of History

Much of the literature contains brief segments of history to familiarise the reader with the CG movement. However, there is limited information regarding the Canadian CG movement. The best sources for the Canadian history of Community Gardening are Edwinna von Baeyer (1984), author of Rhetoric and Roses, Sean Cosgrove (1998) of the Toronto Food Policy Council and Moura Quayle (1986), a landscape architecture professor at the University of British Columbia. These three have developed Canadian-specific Community Gardening information. Cosgrove (1998) writes that the United States has a greater history of Community Gardening, and attributes their fuller history to their "greater challenges of disinvestment, urban decay, and poorly planned urban renewal schemes" (Cosgrove, 1998, 5). Chapter two delves further into the history of Community Gardening in Canada and the United States.

The Need for Open Space vs. The Desire for Community Gardens

It has been agreed that open space is required in urban areas; as Warner stated, "green space is vital in a liveable city" (Warner, 1987; 37). Cities are made of concrete, steel, and other person-made products, and when these areas begin to decay they become congested, unhappy places. Often the fault for this decay lies with planners and city officials who did not realise that open spaces rejuvenate the city. The presence of urban decay has inspired academics to study the problem, and they continue to document the need for quality open space (Bassett, 1979, Quayle, 1986, Mitchell, 1973). Government reports have documented the value of open space when developing a liveable city, and they consistently imply that these places need to appear and be safe (Johnson and Muirhead, 1995; Palour, et el. 1972; Millward, 1991; Strong, 1965). Research consistently confirms the redeeming effects that positive open spaces create in urban areas (Stamp, 1987; Kaplan, 1985; Bailey, 1993; Brill, 1989; Quayle, 1989). Books on Community Gardening and neighbourhood revitalisation explain the need for open space as a required element when creating 'positive'community space (Bulfinch, 1992 Warner; 1987; Gordon, 1990). By allowing residents to control and redesign community space it becomes a central part of the community. The garden is respected, cared for and protected, which helps create a stronger more resilient neighbourhood (Hester, 1984; Hough, 1995; Landman, 1993; von Baeyer; 1984). Fried's 1982 and 1984 studies found that access to nature was the strongest predictor of residents'local satisfaction and was second (after marital role) in the category of 'life satisfaction'. These findings were particularly strong for those in a lower economic status (Kaplan, 1992; 129). Kaplan explains that "The availability of nature meets an essential human need; fortunately, it is a need that is relatively easy to meet. A garden patch, some trees nearby, and a chance to see them can all be provided at minimal cost and for enormous benefit" (Kaplan, 1992; 132). Carole Nemore writes, that a garden's "diversity and richness cannot be easily substituted" by playgrounds, parks or other more structured open spaces (Nemore, 1998).

At one time 'open space'only consisted of city owned and operated parks. Mark Francis's study on the various conceptual meanings attached to gardens and parks in Sacramento found that gardens are often more meaningful to residents and more economical to establish and maintain (Francis, 1987). Therefore, as a result of the proven need for 'open space'and the positive effects of Community Gardening it is understandable why governments have, at least tentatively and hesitantly, allowed some form of Community Gardening.

Gardeners have gardened for many different reasons. Some of "The first activists were...civil rights campaigners and╔ [they] conflicted with established municipal politics ...[they were] peace corps graduates" (Warner, 1987; 20). Sean Cosgrove (1998) refers to these gardens as "Counter-Culture" gardens. People no longer wanted the government to control their lives; people challenged the establishment and became more participatory in the political process creating the "self-help movement...between 1968-1976" (Warner, 1987; 23). As bombs were exploding in Vietnam, North Americans wanted to find their roots and get back to the earth, with "increased environmental awareness", earth shoes and flower power, Community Gardening became the next logical step towards self-reliance (Gordon, 1990, 7).

The terms "self-reliance" and "self-sufficiency" are frequently referred to in the literature (Goldman, 1975; Triedman 1985; Richard, et al., 1996; Quayle, 1989; Jamison, 1985; Hester, 1984; Hough, 1995; Gordon, 1990; Landman, 1993; Fox, et al., 1985). Michael Jamison devised four categories explaining why people participate in CGs. They are: "increased self-worth and self-confidence; increased self-reliance and self-sufficiency; neighbourhood improvement and community development; promotion of co-operation, equity and democracy" (Jamison, 1985). It is believed that if CGs are left to flourish these possible goals will be actualised into tangible benefits (Eckdish, 1994, 24).

There have been several "how to" books published detailing how to start your own garden including how to get people organised, how to finding a plot and test the soil, and how to work with the city (Cole, 1978; Naimark, 1982; Drake, 1976). These books are a reflection of peoples'desire to develop independent CGs.

Benefits of Community Gardening

Cities, like corporations, do not provide land for CGs (which equals money) because of their altruistic nature. Rather, they do it because gardens, or public spaces are needed for a city to survive; there is a need for "a little island in the madness" (Malakoff, 1995). Gardeners participate for financial, environmental, social and political reasons, but these gardens continue because on some level everyone profits -- individuals benefit, neighbourhoods benefit, and hence, the entire city benefits.

Community Gardening was based in economic crises and used as a money saving scheme for poor relief, and not because of its intrinsic value (Warner, 1987, 12). The economic benefits of gardening range from their inexpensive development to savings on vegetable costs (Foegen, 1983). During the early 1970s the rate of inflation was so exorbitant that many people took up gardening to supplement their high food bills (Goldman, 1975). The literature reports that cities develop, or allow CGs to develop, because of their high economic value as neighbourhood revitalisation projects (Fox, et al., 1985, Landman, 1993).

Although the greatest benefit for local governments is financial, it is not so for the gardeners who must be committed and hard working to produce anything from a once rubble strewn lot. Garden produce does not come effortlessly and everything grown has a high cost in 'sweat equity'(Goldman, 1975, Fox, et al., 1985; 68, Cashdan et al. 1982). Therefore, it has often been said that the greatest benefit to participants is the social aspect (Mattson, et al., 1996, Quayle, 1989, Blair, et al., 1991). A gardener once said "people don't just garden in those sites...they talk about the news of the day. They socialise. They form relationships" (Fox, et al., 1985, 45). From these social bonds that form within the gardens, people start talking about their neighbourhood, what is wrong and how they can help (Lewis, 1992; 62; ACGA homepage, January, 1999).

Many refer to these acts of social interaction and gardening as therapy and it is said that city gardens are "more for therapy than economic reasons" (Winkeller, 1986, 13). Through the simple act of gardening people form alliances. These alliances help people gain power through numbers "Its [the garden's] goal is the empowerment of ordinary citizens who live in the city" (Warner, 1987, 39). It becomes "something that is run by people not governed by governments or the [economic] market"(Glenn, 1998, 128). The gardeners share their stories and their feelings, first about their garden and then about themselves. People begin to feel a part of the solution to environmental dangers and neighbourhood decay. When people bond and form associations the ultimate benefit of self-reliance can be realised.

A community within a city that tries to help itself, saves the local authority from making mistakes and gives the residents something to strive for and be proud of (Goldman, 1975; Brill, 1989; Spences, 1993; Finn, 1994). These neighbourhood groups take the initiative and have "turned, often, ugly and dangerous lots into a source of family food and personal accomplishment" (Warner, 1987, 27). Many have said that community 'self-reliance'is the key, but this 'self-reliance'can only grow out of a complete process; meaning, the residents must be involved from the beginning (Gordon, 1990, 6; Triedman, 1985). If officials support the gardens then this ultimate benefit of community self-reliance can be actualised (Eckdish, 1994, 24).

Anne Whiston Penn, labelled by Eckdish (1994) as the academic guru of the gardening movement states, "I'm interested in the gardens as a vehicle for reshaping entire neighbourhoods." Penn, like many other garden advocates, believes in "using the garden as a communication tool to help residents express what they want from the garden and their neighbourhood." Through "...harnessing the energy and resources represented by the people who live in the neighbourhood" residents begin to feel like part of the solution (Eckdish, 1994, 20-24).

The literature about Community Gardening does not end with 'vacant lot'gardens. The same benefits of Community Gardening are found in school garden projects. In California, students at a Los Angeles high school run a garden business and students at a Berkeley middle school learn about the benefits of working the land and eating good food (Finn, 1994). If gardens can help people reach their true potential by creating a positive community, Catherine Sneed believes that the experience can help even the most desperate. Sneed believes, as do many gardeners, that "working outside helps people feel better about themselves, to feel centred, and that they belong to something... gardening and working in the earth helps people to feel connected... gardening helps people to make a difference" (Spencer, 1993). When people garden collectively they begin to feel like part of the community. Sneed understands that if a prisoner, ex-convict, welfare-mom, and other people in similar situations begin to feel like part of society, they will conform to the rules of society. This makes it easier for them to return to 'mainstream'society with confidence and pride (Spencer, 1993. Fox, et al., 1995). Gardens have also been started at hospitals and hospices to help the terminally ill (Hynes, 1996). Horticulture therapy is being utilised to help the mentally and physically disabled become more productive citizens (Bassett, 1979; 166).

There are as many benefits to Community Gardening as there are gardeners. Every gardener seems to apply a different adjective, but most seem to feel that it is 'great'and seemingly irreplaceable. Community Gardening is described with phrases like, 'safe environment', 'social need', 'self-esteem', 'freedom', 'peace', 'solitude', 'harmony', 'reduced stress, fear and anger', 'exercise and better health', 'lower blood pressure', and of course, for the 'sheer enjoyment'and 'great tasting vegetables'(Gordon, 1990, 3; Mattson, et al., 1996; ACGA homepage, January, 1999; Ehrhardt, 1997). Unfortunately, with all the benefits reported there are still threats to the green oases housed in the concrete and steel of congested cities.

Threats to Community Gardens

The literature on CGs documents problems in the gardens, disputes over land and issues of vandalism. By far the greatest issue is the lack of permanent space. The gardens that residents build, care for and cherish can be taken away at anytime. Even with all the benefits a garden can produce, many cities believe that property becomes too 'valuable'to be used for just Community Gardening (Fox, et al., 1995, 9).

In the past, when gardens were started because of economic or nationalistic reasons, it seemed obvious that the garden would cease once these needs were gone. However, since the 1970s gardens have started for many more reasons, and these reasons will not disappear; therefore, making it unforeseeable that gardens will ever be 'ready'to be bulldozed. The lack of permanency is the worst threat to CGs and is constantly mentioned in the literature (Glenn, 1998; Cashdan et al., 1982; City Farmer homepage; Malakoff, 1995).

Even in 1999 when there is a much more holistic approach to planning and development; New York CGs are struggling to survive after being placed on the up-coming auction block. City officials have not learned from the mistakes of the past. The city of New York, which was classified as not having enough green space in the 1970s, has placed over a hundred of its community gardening lots up for sale (City Farmer homepage; ACGA homepage; Nemore, 1998; e-mail petition).

Moura Quayle believes one of the reasons for the constant threat CGs is that a CG is not seen as a legitimate land-use (Quayle, 1989). Montreal is the only city that has given CG designated zoning (Cosgrove, 1998). This designation has secured CGs in Montreal; therefore, the city has become renowned for its gardens and its happy gardeners. Michael Hough categorises land into 'pedigree', mowed landscaped turf, and 'non-pedigree', which is self-maintaining or naturalised. Unfortunately city officials only seem to believe that 'pedigree'lands are worth protecting, believing it is what the citizens want (Quayle, 1989; Hough, 1995, 6). Mark Francis has written that there is a large discrepancy between what officials plan and what people actually want (Francis, 1986). Therefore, the first step to gaining legitimacy will be to inform the city officials of the actual needs and desires of the people.

City officials should be held accountable for their assumptions. As the peoples'representatives city officials can only do their job properly when they actually know the peoples'desires, otherwise they are not fulfilling their duties. City officials would legitimise CGs more readily if they took the time to realise that gardens are the type of open space that people prefer. Through this realisation by city officials garden legitimisation can be a solution to the security of CGs (Quayle, 1989; Francis, 1985; Dekay, 1997).

The solution of legitimising CGs through zoning lands and developing policies has its dilemmas. Often when city officials create policies, the people affected by these policies lose control over their project, and hence control, vital to the actualisation of self-reliance and other Community Gardening benefits are jeopardised. What threatened New York's vest-pocket parks of the 1960s was that "residents felt left out of the planning... and [they were] not pleased with the results" (Warner, 1987; 29). City administrators must keep in mind that the feelings of pride and commitment come with an actual or perceived feeling of ownership. Officials must remember what David Morris writes, "the primary benefit of local self-reliance is not economic, it is psychological"; therefore, one cannot order people to cultivate the land, users must be allowed to grow in their own manner (Gordon, 1990, 33). The policies of today are very general, and place people in specific categories. Community gardeners cannot be pigeonholed by the structured policy of city planners. Every garden and gardener is distinct and so each must be treated differently. City officials must recognise that people are different and that they must be able to utilise different approaches and processes (Kaplan, 1992, 132).

If a garden cannot be saved by working with the municipal system, much of the literature consulted discussed the option of buying the garden lands with the help of the Public or Community Land Trusts (Winkeller, 1986, 13; Bailey, 1993; Cosgrove, 1998). The combination of a group of dedicated people, imagination and persistence can save a garden. In the past, the Clinton Community Garden was saved by the perseverance of the gardeners, and in New York gardeners continue to battle for their sites. (Clinton Community Garden, January, 1999; Winkeller, 1986). It appears that whenever CGs are threatened members will make an overwhelming effort to save what they have struggled to create (Nemore, 1998).

What Else is Needed?

This literature review ends with the conclusion that there needs to be more research to legitimise and analyse the benefits of CGs (ACGA, January, 1999). Although Patricia Hynes understands that there needs to be more qualitative data, she hopes that eventually people will start listening to the gardeners and take their words as 'proof'of the outstanding benefits of CGs (Hynes, 1996, 160). Everyone who wants to understand what Community Gardening is and understand its benefits must acknowledge that the history of gardening is less about horticultural triumphs and more about a "documentation of how people really live"; understanding that it is "more about 'community'and less about 'gardening'" (Nemore, 1998, 19; Punch, 1992, 65).

Chapter 2 - The Brief History of Community Gardening

How gardens,
and people have connected in the past


From the time humans learned the craft of land cultivation, farms and gardens have been part of our civilisation and these agricultural practices are imbedded in our history. As our society migrated from rural to urban settings, society lost its connection to the land. The need for gardens and their purposes have constantly changed. Entering the nineteenth century the need for 'urban gardens'appeared, and from that time on there has been a steady ebb and flow of urban community gardening.

Urban gardening's fluctuating history parallels the historical events of North America. The literature is filled with references to the history of community gardens. The Canadian sources that have been most helpful in explaining the origins of the movements are "Rhetoric and Roses" by Edwinna von Baeyer (1984) and Moura Quayle's (1986 and 1989) writings. Thomas Bassett's (1979) masters thesis, entitled "Vacant Lot Cultivation: Community Gardening in America", along with urban gardener Sam Bass Warner Jr's. (1987) "To Dwell is to Garden" were used to understand the American movement. Thomas Bassett gives an American account of the community gardening movement, which has a fuller history and will be the basis of this section. With Edwinna von Baeyer adding the Canadian context, the two authors help build a deeper understanding of the movement. The names and the times of the gardening eras differ between Canada and the United States and Sean Cosgrove (1998) gives an organised list of the eras, their duration and label (see Table 1).

Table 1 - List of Gardening Eras in North America
Potato Patches (1890-1930) Railway Gardens (1890-1930)
School Gardens (1900-1920) Moral Garden** (early 1900)
Garden City Plots (1905-1910) School Gardens (1900-1913)
Liberty Gardens (1917-1920) Vacant Lot Gardens (1910-1920)
Relief Gardens (1935-1979) War Gardens (1914-1947)
Victory Gardens (1941-1945) Counter-Culture Gardens(1965-1979)
Community Gardens(1980-) Community Open Space (1980-)
*(Cosgrove, 1998) **(von Baeyer, 1984)

The following pages will further explain these eras and illustrate the reasons for the waves of Community Gardening popularity.

Allotment Gardens

Allotment Gardens are lands that have been allotted by one party to another in order to garden vacant or unused land. Allotment gardens signaled the beginning of the community gardening movement that started in England. As people migrated to the city to claim their part of the industrial revolution, open space and CGs became a necessity and a way for people to retain some attachment to the land (Quayle, 1989, 17). Allotment gardens began in England when the Allotment Acts of 1887 and 1889 required that local governments provide space for community or 'allotment'gardens (Quayle, 1989, 17). These plots were often rented for a guinea giving them the name 'guinea gardens'(Warner, 1987, 110). Aristocrats would allow the underprivileged the right to use their land. Government and private initiatives were often laded with rules of conduct for the gardener, such as "All occupiers will be expected to attend regularly at Divine service, to conduct themselves with propriety at all times; and to bring up their families in a decent and orderly manner" (Warner, 1987, 10). Even under such demeaning terms, thousands of England's poor began to garden (Warner, 1987, 10). These gestures of 'goodwill'by those with land were made because people believed that having a green space to enjoy was important in maintaining a healthy human environment, which would, in turn, not require social relief programs and people would remain productive.

The Moral Garden

In North America CGs began to spring up in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Quayle, 1989, 17). These early gardens were untamed and only used to supplement basic, nutritional needs. In this same time frame a movement for manicured entrances and ornamental lawns developed. These gardens were often referred to as attempts to save the 'evil'city from urban blight by bringing bits and pieces of the wholesome country within its borders. Canadians were encouraged to "clean up their back-yards, create gardens for moral and scriptural welfare, and rid the ground of pest-filled eyesores" (von Baeyer, 1984, 2). Canadians were not only weeding their own garden "but society's as well" (von Baeyer, 1984, 4). These ornamental gardens had various style trends up until the 1900s, when the gardens began to reflect the economic concerns of society rather than prestigious landscape designs, with edible gardens sowed in their place (von Baeyer, 1984, 6).

Potato Patch Garden

In the United States the 1890s were particularly hard on the urban population. The Potato Patch was a community gardening plan enacted to help those in dire need of support. This period of gardening is well documented in the United States. In contrast, Canadian literature only alludes to this period of community gardening; this difference may be attributed to the difference in the sizes of the nations and their urban populations (Quayle, 1989, 17).

Before gardening, society's welfare solutions were 'make-work'programs, which labelled the people in need with a social stigma of being 'on the dole'and they were treated as second-class citizens (not unlike the way many view welfare recipients today) (Bassett, 1979, 10). During the panic of 1893 many people needed social assistance and this overwhelming need helped shift the focus of unproductive 'make-work'programs to the actual work of gardening, which was considered positive and useful for those involved.

During this economically harsh time, the Mayor of Detroit, Haze S. Pingree, believed that allotment gardening would give dignity and spirit to those in need. He believed that if you gave an unemployed person a chance to work and support their family they would take any opportunity (Bassett, 1972, 10). By the summer of 1894, 975 families in Detroit were cultivating potatoes, beans and turnips on city and privately donated vacant land (Bassett, 1972, 10). There were many benefits attributed to this program, including hope, self-respect, independence, self-reliance, and the therapeutic benefits of fresh air and exercise, as well as financial savings. Another benefit identified was that immigrants would socialise in these gardens and therefore learn the "American way" more rapidly and easily become part of the United States melting pot (Bassett, 1972, 1-17).

Railroad Gardens

A more Canadian gardening venture in the 1890s was the railroad gardens. These gardens, initiated by the Canadian Pacific Railway, continued for approximately seventy years (Quayle, 1989,18). These gardens were initially developed to encourage pioneers to explore "paradise in the wilderness" (Quayle, 1989,17). In Europe such gardens had a positive effect on the railroad and its image within the community. In Canada these gardens were often so successful that the station became the focal point of the town (von Baeyer, 1984, 16). These gardens were not community based. It was usually the station manger who developed and maintained the garden. In the early years of this era the railway had nurseries, and vast catalogues of seeds; a horticulturist would be sent to give advice and direction to the station managers. From 1917 -1930 these once high maintenance, annually planted gardens were standardised with shrubs and the sprit of individuality was lost and displaced by nationalism (Quayle, 1989,17). Finally as people started to take cars and not trains, gardens were no longer used to attract people and many were turned into parking lots (von Baeyer, 1984, 33)

"pave paradise and put up a parking lot╔you don't know what you got till it's gone"
Joni Mitchell

School Gardens

The School gardens were part of the Nature Study Movement. In the United States the movement was designed to combat urban squalor and decay by promoting the benefits of understanding nature. A call for "back to nature" sounded in urban areas and in America it was thought that by teaching the rural way of life some might opt to leave the city and relieve its congestion (Bassett, 1972, 28). School garden plots would be systematically organised into neat straight areas. The children had to care for their plots by understanding the land and their crops (Bassett, 1972, 36). This was thought to instil responsibility, co-operation, productivity, efficiency and progress (Bassett, 1972, 35). Advocates believed that lessons learned from gardening were comparable to the lesson of a dollar. Understanding where food comes from, and the amount of work it takes to grow it, may teach children the value of work and organisation. Hopefully it will train them on how to do the most work with the least amount of effort (Bassett, 1972, 37).

In Canada the Nature Study Movement was based on a quasi-religious belief in nature. As well, some believed that learning by doing develops well-educated patriotic citizens that would support the country and its people (von Bayer, 1984, 39). A Montreal philanthropist and the Ontario school board believed in and supported the school gardening movement. As children were placed in a gardening environment, they developed neat and orderly plots firmly placing them "on the garden path." In Canada, school gardening was focused towards rural students, to keep them in the country and continue rural trades (Quayle, 1989,17). Spin-offs of the school gardens were the development of the School Fairs and the easy transition of these gardens into ones that helped the war effort. The educational benefits of school gardens secured the popularity of gardening for this era. The demise of these gardens was strongly influenced by the rural parents who wanted their childrens'education to be strictly academic, which would lead them to higher learning and city occupations. As well, other organisations believed that schools should be focusing purely on academics (Quayle, 1989, 17).

Liberty Gardens

Liberty gardens were developed during World War I. Again, there is more documentation on Liberty Gardens for the United States, although in Canada there are tales of such gardens during this time.

The new urban farmers of Liberty gardens were labelled as patriotic soldiers of the soil and were encouraged to farm any idle land in order to help the American and allied troops. Urban food production allowed farmers to ship their produce directly to Europe and eased the burden of food transportation within the country (Bassett, 1979, 57). The average American did not understand how they could help the war by planting a garden. Because Americans had to be convinced that gardening helped the war effort, officials of the National War Garden Commission had to be trained on how to organise the 'would be'gardens through the use of propaganda and instructional material. With a patriotic zeal, the garden furrows were seen as 'trenches'and gardeners were combating the enemy with 'bread bullets'(Bassett, 1979, 56). Those that did not garden or lands that were unused were labelled 'slacker'and were helping in the demise of democracy. The National War Garden Commission wanted to promote production and conservation by making urban farmers home soldiers (Bassett, 1979, 57). A system of site preparation provided by the Commission, and the ability to buy fertiliser, seed and tools at group and wholesale prices were just some of the benefits of group gardening (Bassett, 1979, 61). The National War Garden Commission gave expert instruction and material to guarantee a bountiful harvest. To ensure they have enlisted all possible gardeners, they prepared handbooks on gardening and food preservation techniques (Bassett, 1979, 63).

The Liberty Gardens also enlisted the help of the smallest gardeners. Nature Study was revised and children became part of the Liberty gardening movement (von Baeyer 1984, 63). Although not all children were expected to have copious crops that would sustain their family, it was hoped that these lessons would create citizens that were trained in the principles of thrift, patriotism and responsibility (Bassett, 1979, 62).

Although one cannot positively conclude that all the efforts of the National War Garden Commission were successful, there seems to have been tremendous food production in these urban gardens. It is not known what percentage of these gardens were private home gardens or public community gardens, yet in 1917 three million, five hundred thousand gardens produced $350,000,000 worth of food, while in 1918 well over five million gardens produced $525,000,000 worth of produce (Bassett, 1979, 66).

The patriotic frenzy to garden created a nation of 'soil soldiers'whose weapons were seeds and hoes. They were gardening for liberty, they were gardening because it was 'the thing to do'and no American would be left out of their patriotic duties (Bassett, 1979, 58).

Relief Gardens

When the Great Depression hit, the need to garden for the survival of the democratic country was transformed into a need to garden for the survival of the people. Relief Gardening was active during the Great Depression, from 1930-1938. It was a social assistance program similar to the Potato Patches of the 1890s. Thomas Bassett attributes the movement to three culturally supportive functions of the time. First, was the idea that the physical and mental health of society's unemployed could be maintained, at a low cost, through the wholesome activity of gardening. Second, was the idea that community gardening might maintain civil order by giving the people affected by the Depression something to do rather than take their anger and despair to the streets. Finally, vacant-lot-cultivation at this time could again be used as a 'make-work'project. Therefore, those unemployed could still feel as if they had accomplished something within a day and they were maintaining some skills that could be employable (Bassett, 1979,72).

Thomas Bassett split the relief garden era into three sections 1930-1933, 1933-1935 and 1936-1938, and the following will use these sections to explain the relief garden movement.

From 1930-1933 the relief garden movement was in its infancy. At this time people still believed that the Depression was going to be over quickly. Yet, the depression only worsened and the numbers in need of assistance swelled to unforeseen figures. The people who were requesting help were no longer the infirm, disabled, or elderly, they were simply unemployed with no hope (Bassett, 1979, 74). Therefore, the ideas of 'make-work'and 'gardening'emerged once again. No longer was it the 'weakness'of the individual that caused the need for assistance, this time it was the failure of the 'system' (Bassett, 1979, 74).

By 1932 there was a surge of Relief Gardens due to the higher cost of food and the ease and low cost of the program. At this time Garden Committees which were often subcommittees of other organisations such as the Family Welfare Society and the Employment Relief Commission were formed (Bassett, 1979, 81). The Relief Gardens were organised and they were no longer for just anyone to garden; people with land were encouraged to plant their own gardens. All of this gardening activity was to the dismay of the farmers who saw gardening as adding to the overproduction and the economic depression (Bassett, 1979, 78).

The second stage of the Relief Gardening movement occurred from 1933-1935. 1933 was a very bleak year and the loss of confidence in the system created a breakdown in social order, resulting in constant protests for more assistance. With his promise of a 'New Deal'Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the thirty-first President of the United States. Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) gave over three billion dollars in aid in its three years of operation (Bassett, 1979, 94). For a wage, gardeners cultivated these new gardens and the produce was then distributed to those in need. Gardeners had to meet strict eligibility rules in order to participate (Bassett, 1979, 95).

Finally, the years from 1936-1938 brought the Relief Gardening Movement full circle. No longer were the gardens a symbol for those destroyed by the system but they were once again intended for those who would not support themselves (Bassett, 1979, 96). The gardens were renamed Welfare Gardens and the support for them was slashed because of rising negative social connotations. Although times were better for the nation, not everyone was surviving the new system of assistance. Bassett blames the demise of Relief gardens on the "drastic drop and categorisation of federal assistance, the weakening of local self-reliance, the availability of food through the surplus Commodities Corporation, and an improved economy" (Bassett, 1979, 103). For the time being gardens had served their purposed and they would not be called upon again until the global affliction of World War II.

Victory Gardens

Once again gardens would become the "trenches" of the home front to ensure victory in World War II. The rise and fall of Victory Gardens is directly related to World War II, illustrated by the fact that in 1944, the height of the war, twenty million gardeners were doing their patriotic duty (Bassett, 1979, 104).

It became a patriotic duty to grow your own food in a personal or community garden. But there were practical and economic reasons to bring the gardens back to life. Both rationing and lack of money made food a scarce commodity during the war. As well, CGs were used to sustain a moral and cultural framework (Bassett, 1979, 106).

Feeding the hungry American and allied troops abroad, and the citizens at home, seemed to be a greater task than the agricultural industry could sustain. In America there were startling reports about widespread malnutrition, while at the same time food exports were increased to Europe (Bassett, 1979, 108). Franklin Roosevelt called a "National Conference for Defence" in May 1941. This conference lead to a widespread attempt to extend awareness of nutrition problems and encouraged farmers and citizens to do more.

This new fear of malnutrition developed the Victory Garden slogan - "A civil war against our greatest domestic enemy, malnutrition" (Bassett, 1979, 109). The propaganda worked, and it was reported that fifteen million people planted gardens with two thirds growing in urban areas (Bassett, 1979, 110). After this success rate a federal organisation was established to give practical direction and structure to the revived movement.

As the propaganda and success of gardens continued, goals were established for Victory Gardens. Bassett outlines the five-point program that "Victory gardens should help [with] (1) to lessen the demand on commercial supplies of vegetables and thus make more available to the Armed Forces and lend-lease programs, (2) to reduce the demand on strategic materials used in processing and canning operations, (3) to ease the burden on railroads transporting war munitions by releasing carriers formerly reserved for produce, (4) to maintain the health and morale of Americans on the home front through the production of nutritious vegetables in the out-of-doors; and (5) to preserve as much fruit and vegetables for now and for future use when shortages might become even worse (Bassett, 1979, 114).

Although the glorified reason to garden was to help fight the war, other benefits came from gardening. These recreational and therapeutic benefits where hoped to curb an anxious lifestyle brought on by war. Unfortunately, once again, all the benefits were not enough to keep the movement going after the war (Bassett, 1979, 115). A new life was found by many and new activities were exciting and stylish, such as Sunday drives. The work of being in the garden was no longer part of the new baby-boomers'society (Bassett, 1979, 115).

Community Gardens

CGs accomplished many things over the past decades. They have combated starvation and malnutrition, unemployment and urban decay; they have increased social status, healthy eating, exercise and a sense of optimism and community. CGs of the later 20th century have been developed for less severe economic issues, but have developed just the same. They have taken on many forms and can be defined in many ways, some examples include: Company, School, Seniors', Anti-Inflation, Organic, and Neighbourhood Gardens.

Company Gardens

Company gardens have been present since the early 1800s. National Cash Register (NCR) had a boys'garden that began in the spring of 1897. The President of the company believed that the garden fostered physical, mental and moral development. Forty boys, ages eight to sixteen, had to tend a plot ten by one hundred and thirty feet under the direction of an experienced gardener (Bassett, 1979, 118). NCR did what it deemed necessary to have employees that were happy and healthy. The garden was a tool to build children into hard working prosperous adults, as well as give them a respect for the land. These children learned to work smart and help care for their families with healthy food; and if their crops were plentiful they could sell the extras for a profit. The popularity of company gardens has fluctuated as the need and desires of society and the working class have changed.

CGs were viewed as a fringe benefit when working for a progressive company such as RCA Laboratories, which in the 1940s created 300 plots for its employees. Often companies are on the outskirts of the city and have vast amounts of vacant land around them. Some companies put this land to use as gardens, thereby creating a stronger sense of community in the office (Bassett, 1979, 151).

Some refer to corporate gardens as "lunch-hour gardens" or "factory farms". Some corporations involved in this activity are: Control Data Corp, which has over 500 plots, Kimberly-Clark has 20 acres, Hewlett-Packard has 60 plots, Bell Laboratories gives a 400-square-foot plot, Lockheed and Bell Telephone also supply land, and Hercules Inc. has a garden for employees and their children (Goldman, 1975, 100, Foegen, 1983, 37).

Dana Parker believes that having a community garden is much like supporting the arts, and she gives four reasons why companies do so: 1) improving the environment in which to work and do business, 2) improving the local community, 3) improving public reaction, and 4) increasing profitability and the ability to recruit quality employees (Parker, 1992, 29). Corporate gardens make people happier; therefore, employees are more productive.

School Gardens

Schools have always been a place for gardens. The trend began in the early 1900s and has been re-inspired many times since then. Education is constantly changing and wherever the 'hands-on'approach to learning is explored, gardens tend to develop. Teaching children how to respect their earth is more easily accomplished when they see, feel, touch and smell the soil, air, water, and life interact. Learning about the features of soil is better understood when one can relate to it by growing food (Bassett, 1979, 151).

Award winning American chef Alice Waters is an advocate for good, healthy food that is produced locally and organically. She was challenged by a Berkeley California middle school, that she criticised for its unused land, to help create a flourishing garden. She did it, with help from students, parents, teachers, community members and company sponsors. The mission of the garden is "to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape wholly integrated into the school's curriculum and lunch program" (Community Action, January 1999).

Alice Waters was inspired by this local Berkeley middle school to do something with their land; hence the Edible Schoolyard Project began (Onlinechef, January 1999). It introduced children to the earth and brought healthy food to their school and their families. Another school garden is "Food from the Hood". This garden has become a profitable business, giving Los Angeles's Crenshaw High School students a chance to learn about agriculture and the business world (Finn, 1994). Successful projects like these bolster the growing trend towards bringing gardens back to schools.


People are living longer and staying healthy into old age. However, people are still retiring at sixty-five with lots of energy and many productive years ahead. Many seniors upon retirement, have decided to spend their time in the garden (Bassett, 1979, 152). Both rich and poor have found the joys of gardening adding to their life. Some have done it to save money, due to the high price of food, and improve their diet, while others are gardening for hobby and exercise (Bassett, 1979, 153). These gardens can be found in old age homes, retirement communities, or in neighbourhood gardens. As well, the benefits of gardening have brought the activity to hospitals and recovery rooms for all people, including seniors.

Anti-Inflation Gardens

Anti-inflation gardens were used by all ages to combat the inflation of food prices in the early 1970s. Anti-inflation information packages were developed and distributed to encourage people to garden. In the early 1970s the State of Massachusetts passed an Act that allowed people to garden on vacant public land (Bassett, 1979, 154). Vacant lot gardening is the type of gardening that is always reverted back to, since there will always be some vacant municipally owned land in the city.

Even though the movement was developed because of the pressures of food prices, the "intangible benefits" were often emphasised. The tangible benefits of saving money were too hard to calculate since the actual amount of food production was so varied. These gardens were a throwback to the Potato Patch and Relief Gardens (see pages17&22) giving land and supplies to people that wanted to learned to help themselves (Bassett, 1979, 158). In 1999 CG are not referred to as 'anti-inflation'gardens, but economic savings is one of the well-documented benefits of gardening. Good, wholesome, organic food is expensive and gardening can often supply better quality (Fox, et al. 1985, 68).

Organic Gardens

Organic Gardens have grown in popularity, since the 1970s, with the wave of ecological awareness and threats of impending environmental disaster. Numerous CGs are purely organic, which means that the growers do not use any pesticides or herbicides in their gardens (Bassett, 1979, 161). In 1999 environmental awareness is even greater, and it appears that most CGs are organic, unless otherwise stated.

Neighbourhood Gardens

Neighbourhood gardens were first developed by civic improvers and City Housing Authorities. These projects were developed to beautify the city and combat urban blight. They were initially flower gardens, but, as a result of the drastic inflation rates of the early 1970s, many of these gardens were transformed into vegetable producers (Bassett, 1979, 149). The Housing Authorities usually prepared these gardens and supplies were given to groups that applied to work the sites. Although neighbourhood groups were granted permission to cultivate the garden space, the land was still part of the Housing Authority. These gardens were in ghetto areas and often used to ease race relations. Successful gardens became a neighbourhood activity that beautified the area aesthetically and socially, a place where Blacks, Whites, Asians, and Latinos combined their efforts (Bassett, 1979, 150).

From the 1970s to today, neighbourhood gardens have been used as low cost versions of urban renewal in cities such as New York, Sacramento, Boston and Philadelphia. Today neighbourhood gardens are a result of the residents taking the initiative and clearing a vacant lot for their CG. Residents also work with self-help and non-profit organisations to develop gardens. Neighbourhood gardens are the subject of the following survey of CG in the Waterloo Region. These gardens were started either by an organisation or a group of interested gardeners.

Finally, new theories on horticulture therapy, as a technique to improve the physical and mental health of the handicapped, have encouraged further development of neighbourhood and other CGs (Bassett, 1979, 166).


The reasons for gardening are often reflected in the type of gardening undertaken. From this brief description it is possible to discern some of the reasons for participation, such as, environmental awareness, unemployment and inflation (food prices), social effect, therapeutic, educational and aesthetic benefits and increased self-help and self-reliance. The types of people who garden or organise the garden vary and include: civic improvers, social service administrators, parks and recreation workers, tenants and block association members, seniors groups and people who want fresh vegetables.

Many of the reasons for CGs in the past are relevant in 1999s society. By knowing the history of CGs, present gardeners may be able to recognise and fend off past threats and utilise past benefits. Like any subject, if history is forgotten it is repeated; ideally current and future gardeners will use the lessons of the past to protect these fragile urban oases.

Chapter 3 - Waterloo Region Community Garden Survey

"people don't just garden in those sites...
they talk about the news of the day.
They socialise.
They form relationships" (Fox, et al., 1985, 45)


The purpose of this survey was to learn more about community gardens, community gardeners and the organisational structures of community gardens in the Waterloo Region. The researcher is not involved in any form of Community Gardening. Therefore, she wanted first hand experience from the gardeners of the Kitchener-Waterloo Region. All the benefits of community gardens can be easily documented from the literature, but receiving information from the source (gardeners) was deemed to be more valuable and informative.

Other methods of surveying were considered, but due to time and budget constraints a decision was made to conduct a mailed survey including every member on the Community Gardening Network list (CGN). The CGN is a new organisation created to help support and unite the CGs around the Waterloo Region. It was hoped that the responses would come from a wide variety of garden types, which would give a better understanding of the differences and the similarities in the gardens. This survey was the last segment of the research conducted by the researcher, and she hoped it would corroborate with the information she had already compiled, and give her some new ideas and a sense of what it is like to be part of a community garden.


The survey began as a data collection concept framed by both the researcher and the advisor. Following several drafts, and final approval from the advisor, the survey was submitted to the University of Waterloo's ethics review process. Following minor revisions the survey instrument was approved. The finalised surveys were sent with a cover letter on University of Waterloo letterhead, to establish the legitimacy of the survey, and to reassure respondents that the researcher had conformed to University research ethics guidelines.

These surveys were sent to every member listed on the on the CGN, totalling twenty-one possible respondents. All envelopes contained a letter of information, the four-page survey, and a self addressed stamped envelope. A few of the mailing addresses were incomplete on the CGN list; therefore, five potential respondents were contacted by telephone to obtain their complete mailing address. Only one potential respondent did not return the call, but the postal code was found and that survey was sent. As well, the CGN listed a garden at the University of Waterloo through the Environmental and Resource Studies program. To find a potential respondent, friends of the researcher introduced her to the young woman who had started that project and the survey was hand delivered to her.

The response envelopes were addressed to the University of Waterloo Planning Department, to the attention of the researcher. A manila envelope was placed on the wall of the Planning Department mailroom to gather the responses.

A total of twenty surveys were mailed to potential respondents on January 21 and January 22, 1999. The cover letter requested that the surveys be returned by February 4, 1999, giving the respondents approximately one week to complete the survey.

The Survey

This mailed survey consisted of four sections: 'You and Your Position Within the Garden', 'The Garden Itself', 'The People and the Garden'and 'The Gardener'. These four sections totalled forty-one questions. Some of the questions were closed-ended with instructions to 'fill-in'percentages or 'circle'the appropriate answer. Most of the questions were open-ended giving the respondents plenty of freedom to answer as they wished. The survey was printed on four single sided typed pages. Room was left to write in the answer, but respondents were encouraged to use the back of the paper and/or add additional information. A copy of the survey can be found in Appendix A. An information letter, which was sent with the survey, can be found in Appendix B. This letter was to inform the prospective respondent about who the researcher was, what the project was about, and what their part would be. It was stated in this letter that anyone who responded would receive a follow-up letter summarising the research findings.

The Rate Of Response

On January 29, 1999 three surveys were received. One survey was received February 3rd and another on the 5th. On February 9, 1999 the researcher called those that had not yet responded. She stressed that the surveys were still welcome, as well, if they had any comments or concerns to please call the researcher. February 10, 1999 two surveys were received. On February 11, 1999 three surveys were received, one respondent personally dropped off the survey in the planning office mailroom. February 16th, 24th and 26th, 1999 three surveys were received. Two potential respondents telephoned to say they did not have time for the survey, and a third was no longer affiliated with the garden that had been surveyed. The researcher telephoned the last five respondents on February 27th, 1999, to inquire if they were planning on submitting the survey. On March 19th one final survey was received. Please refer to the chart below for an easy reference to the rate of responses.

Chapter 4 - From The Survey; The Garden and its Organisation

"╔I still like playing in the dirt,
so I can do that too
(some people call it weeding)".

Getting To Know The Garden And The Gardener

This section will introduce the respondents and their gardens. It will explore the garden structure by asking: Who are the CG organisers? What are their motivations? What is the structure of the CGs and what are the activities, fees and rules in the CG? What are the social characteristics of the gardeners and does the garden accommodate special needs? An understanding of why people garden develops from knowing the benefits and costs of being the garden organiser, including the events and activities in a garden, as well as, the rules and the cost of participating the garden. This section of the survey was intended to help the respondents become comfortable and to get into the right frame of mind for answering the more conceptual questions later in the survey.

Table 2 -List of The Gardens That Responded to The Survey.

Why Be a Garden Organiser?

Community Gardens form for many different reasons; therefore, their structure, organisation and funding also vary. This section will give a brief synopsis of why and how CGs have formed, how they are organised and run, and how they are funded.

CGs have sprung from existing organisations, new groups and determined individuals. Most of the CGs in the Waterloo Region are affiliated with organisations such as food banks and churches or other organisations like Achievement in Motion (AIM). AIM offers services to mental health consumers. These organisations realised the benefits of CGs and took the opportunity to expand their community outreach programs by including a garden. Neighbourhoods and/or their associations saw the benefits of community gardens and developed a CG for their area. Finally, individuals have inspired CG, such as the University of Waterloo student who developed a CG on the Waterloo Campus for residents, students, staff and faculty to enjoy. It has often been a structured, recognised organisation that has developed a garden, but it is usually an individual that has inspired the idea. Such is the case with the new G.R.O.W (Green Rural Opportunities in Waterloo) project at AIM.

The organisers of the various gardens have different motivations. Six of the respondents were lucky enough to be in a paid position. Their garden duties were usually part of another job within the established organisations, such as the food banks. Most of these organisers are motivated by more than money, since many of the paid organisers even stated they work much more than they are paid for. These people enjoy the outdoors, the fresh air, meeting new people and helping others. The organiser from the Woolwich CG wrote "╔I still like playing in the dirt, so I can do that too (some people call it weeding)". The pleasures of gardening are so great that many people are not motivated by money and give their time to ensure the integrity of the garden. Five respondents were strictly volunteers. Their satisfaction was in seeing the garden grow and meeting many different people. The last three respondents are harder to categorise, as one was simply a contact and was not involved in the garden, another was on the garden committee at a co-op. Being part of this co-op committee actually is work since every member of a co-op has their duties. The last respondent was the President of the Sand Hills Co-op and was not directly involved in the garden organisation. This researcher believes that the organisers do it because they see the wonderful effects the garden has on the people and the community and they are part of it; and they know that they helped create the CG and continue to make it possible.

Who Gardens Here? What does it Cost?

There was also variation in who was allowed to participate in the CGs surveyed. Five of the fourteen CGs were open to the public. Six of the gardens were only open to the residents of the area or neighbourhood. Three were only open to the people that participated in the organisation that the garden was affiliated with. The Steckle garden was varied and it was only open to groups that registered and -- if there was space -- to the public. The Steckle garden was the most costly as well, annually from $10-$40 for families and $150 for schools or other activities. Ten of the gardens charged no fee, besides the hard work of gardening. This is probably due to the fact that the majority of gardens are affiliated with groups that try to help low income people. Three, plus the Steckle gardens, had costs ranging from $5-$12.85 per plot annually. These plot fees are used to subsidise the cost of maintaining the garden plots and services, such as, water, tilling, compost, and workshops. Most of the land was donated free of change; the Steckle garden is leased yearly for one dollar. A few of the gardens had outside sponsorship, most were helped by the organisation they were affiliated with. Two received the Caring Community Grant and others were supported by private organisations. This funding represents the interest the community and the business community show towards the CG projects.

Waiting List vs. Garden Popularity

The survey asked if there was a waiting list, because it was thought that such a list would be a measure of popularity and success of the CG; this was found not to be a true indicator. Respondents often wrote that there is not a waiting list; however, if a greater demand existed the garden size may increase. This potential increase in the garden's size may not include accepting more gardeners. The increase may be due to the existing gardeners wanting more land while maintaining current membership levels. This question should have specified why the garden would increase, be it number of people or size of plot, or it should have defined what garden increase meant in this context.

Five gardens believe that their garden size would increase, but only one of these gardens has a waiting list. Many gardens had enough room and could simply expand the garden; therefore, there was no need for a waiting list. Another respondent referred people, who might have created a waiting list, to one of the other gardens in the Region. No respondent said that their CG was going to decrease in size; therefore, the gardens are popular enough to sustain themselves. An increase is positive if the garden includes more people or if the gardeners have been successful and desire more land, but to be sure of why the garden would increase the questions should have been more specific.

Garden Activities

The Waterloo Region Food Bank Garden respondent had the following to say about organised activities in the gardens, "It helps gardeners to meet each other in another setting, to share their experiences and knowledge, to learn new information, [and] develop some skills. It helps to know how the gardeners feel about the programs, to hear their concerns, but also to let them run the garden for themselves."

This section will help explain what else, besides gardening, is done at the CGs. It has been documented that much more than just vegetables can be produced in a garden. The researcher wanted to explore what is grown at these gardens. The survey asked whether there were organised activities, and inquired whether gardener contact was maintained during the winter. The surveys also asked what the garden does with surplus food and if any distribution is organised by the garden. Finally, it asked about rules in the garden.

To inform those who are interested in gardening at a particular site, the CGN lists the services and materials that are furnished by the gardens, such as tilling, water and fertiliser. To find out if any additional services are offered, three questions were asked. The survey discovered what other services and organised activities were available. These included group meetings, potluck dinners, fall clean-up, technical support, shared transportation, and workshops. All but three gardens had organised activities.

The City of Kitchener Allotment Garden did not have any organised activities, although the gardens did receive a lot of assistance with site preparation and equipment. One reason why there may be no organised activities is because this is a city run garden and the community does not develop or organise any aspects of the garden. Therefore, there has been no reason for the gardeners to take the initiative to organise events, and the City does not feel an obligation to provide such events.

The other gardens that do not have any organised activities are the New Hamburg-Wilmot Community and Sand Hills Co-op gardens. The reason for the lack of garden activities is on the other end of the organisational spectrum of the garden. These gardeners are already part of a group, they attend the same church or live in the same co-op; therefore, they do not need to plan events outside the garden since they are already participating in other events. These examples illustrate that there are a variety of ways the gardens are organised, from an already existing organisation, to one where groups of unconnected people gather.

The survey asked if the gardeners maintained year long contact. This was asked to determine how the gardens organise themselves, whether they stay in contact or reassemble every spring. Twelve responded that gardener contact was not maintained over the winter. This may be because they are already in contact since they are part of another group (i.e. neighbourhood, food bank volunteers) or because no one takes the initiative. The two groups that did maintain contact were very casual and based on friendships that might have been formed through the garden.

Gardens that have organised activities listed many benefits: participation, friendship, exercise, new ideas and information, education, socialising, share skills and labour, development of fair rules, develops a sense of ownership, team-sprit, co-operative work and sharing the stresses of life and gardening. This list only included how people feel when they are involved in activities that are for the gardeners. Many participants feel even better when they know they are giving back to the community

The survey inquired what is done with surplus food and if distribution is organised by the garden. Most of the efforts to share the garden's harvest were initiated by the gardeners individually; only two gardens had organised food-giving programs. This researcher believes that if the CGs and needy organisations worked more closely the surplus food might be more readily used. One garden respondent mentioned the act of 'gleaning'which is the process of taking whatever is left after the harvest. Using the garden's entire product to its fullest extent will make a CG even more productive.

Rules and the Garden

The survey asked if there are any rules that must be followed when participating in the garden. Ten garden respondents have established rules. These rules are either based on a contract, with the threat of lost privileges as a punishment, or are commonly known and reinforced with 'reminders'. The first members often establish the rules and they are usually revised when problems arise. Others make rules as they become necessary. Some of the listed rules included: no name calling, smoking permitted only in designated areas, safety first, use sunscreen, maintain plot, respect others, maintain surrounding land near plot, practice water conservation, attend meetings and use common sense. A rule that a majority of the gardens insist upon was the use of organic farming methods; therefore, avoiding chemicals in the garden. The Cambridge Self Help Food Bank Garden realised that they needed to establish and enforce rules after last season (1998), which was their first year of production. This garden utilised member person-power from people who had to work a certain number of 'community hours'. It was noted that the lack of rules and proper supervision affected the garden. In the coming years establishing and enforcing rules will change this trend.

The survey also asked what is and is not permitted to be grown in the garden. The gardeners could grow vegetables, flowers and herbs, while most respondents allowed whatever the participants desired. Only a few items were prohibited from growing in the garden, these include, weeds (well, they try), illegal drugs, surprisingly pumpkin and squash (in one garden since they attract vandals,) and another wrote that nothing but vegetables and herbs are allowed.

The establishment of rules helps legitimise the garden. Most rules seem to be common sense but once they are written down and accepted by the participants they begin to feel part of an organisation and a team.

The Gardeners Composition

The last section of the survey is 'The Gardener'. This section was used to find the character of the average gardener, by asking about participants, gender, age and income levels. As well, the survey asked if the garden accommodated people with special needs. It was thought that these questions might help in understanding why participants of certain gardens have particular attributes. Garden differences were not attributed to the age, gender, or income status. The accommodation of special needs explains some of the rules and organisation of the garden, but again this was not a good indication since such a small number of gardens accommodate special needs.

Overall there are more women participants in the CGs in Waterloo Region. Out of the thirteen organisers who responded to the question of gender, sixty percent said their gardeners were female and forty percent were male. There did not appear to be any differences in the garden's organisation, structure or goals when a greater proportion of one gender participated.

The age group that does the most gardening is between ages 26-45. This age group comprises of fifty percent of the eleven respondents that answered this question. The next highest age group participation was children aged 1-12, they made up seventeen percent of the gardeners. This is most likely due to parents taking their children to garden with them and the few gardens that have space developed for children. Mature adults, aged 45 plus, comprise sixteen percent of the gardeners. The lowest percentages, aside from those not being able or willing to answer the question, were youths aged 16-25, who only comprised sixteen percent of the gardening population. The type of garden affected the age on only a few of the gardens. The University of Waterloo garden comprised mostly of students increased the youth age category. As well the Steckle Garden offered most of its productivity to organised activities for children, which increased the children age category. The Sand Hills Co-op was one garden that was comprised mostly of mature adults. Age did not effect the overall benefits or goals of the garden.

Sixty-one percent of the garden respondents did not know or did not answer the income levels of the community garden. This may be due to the fact that the economic situation is very sensitive or that it is not a factor when gardening. Although thirty-two percent of the gardens were categorised as low income, this researcher believes that the percentage of unknown or unanswered supports the idea that gardeners, even poor ones, are just that, gardeners when participating in CGs. In the garden people are not judged on their economic status. 'Middle'and 'high'income levels comprised seven percent of the gardens proving that gardening is for everyone at all economic levels. The number of respondents that did not know what the income levels of the gardeners are proves that gardening is an activity that does not label or judge people. This non-judgemental atmosphere helps people to be proud of their efforts and accomplishments, especially those who are in need of legitimising their efforts to help themselves. The high number of low income gardeners using these CGs proves that it is a well used and needed activity for the low income population in Waterloo Region. The lack of categorisations proves that this activity helps people, communities, and cites, without negative labelling.

Finally, the respondents were asked if the garden accommodates people with special needs. Some of the gardens do accommodate people with special needs. Gardens in other cities included people who are mentally or physically challenged or are recently released criminals. The categories of special needs in the Waterloo Region included, mentally and physically challenged individuals and those with allergies.

Four respondents reported they accommodated special needs. One hundred percent of G.R.O.W's gardeners are mentally challenged and the entire garden is managed to meet their special needs. The garden is part of AIM, which is a program devoted to mental health consumers. Forty percent of the gardeners of the Forest Hill United Church Community Garden are either physically or mentally challenged. Gardening provides these special persons with outdoor recreation, homemaking skills and vegetable preservation skills. Some of the gardeners from the Cedar Hill Community Garden are considered unemployable in the mainstream job market, so working in the garden gives them a real sense of accomplishment. The Waterloo Region Food Bank Garden accommodates special needs by recognising that people have allergies to chemical herbicides and pesticides. To meet these and other needs, this garden is committed to organic cultivation.


The CGs in the Waterloo Region exhibit a range of diverse characteristics. Some organisers garden as part of a job, others'motivation is to build their community and meet their neighbours. The gardens themselves are varied in accessibility, as some are open to the public while others are only available to specific people. As well, some charge a fee and others are free. The rules and their organisation also differ. Finally, the characteristics of the gardeners differ, but this hardly affects the gardens and their organisation. Even with these differences the goals are often the same, to have good food and a strong community. These differences prove that gardens should not be structured by the municipality, gardens need to be free to express the users individuality and meet their needs.

Chapter 5 - From the survey; Goals, Benefits and Effects

"We've left something of ourselves here.
When you've planted a garden, you've left something permanent.
They can't take that away from you - no matter what, short of digging up the land.
But other than that even if nobody tends this garden for years.
Something would remain here, something would still be growing here that we had something to do with.
And you could come back here and look at it and smile"
Evelyn, McHahon (Warner, 1987)

Garden Goals, Benefits And Effects

The researcher ultimately wanted to know what the gardens were trying to accomplish and if the gardens'goals were being met. Very open-ended questions regarding the gardens'goals, benefits and effects were asked in the survey. This section explains what Waterloo Region's CGs are trying to, or have, accomplished and what are the barriers to this achievement. Some of these answers were very minimal, while others revealed the essences of the gardens, by explaining the garden's affects on the gardeners and the overall benefits to the community. People, politicians and planners have not realised the affects that a piece of land can have on a community. Feelings of pride and ownership ring throughout the garden, these feelings transform people and communities, proving that the seeds planted in CGs nurture a sense of community; CGs are tools to build a stronger healthier and happier community. This healthier community is one that is more self-sufficient at building and maintaining a sense of pride and community through the efforts of the residents.

The survey questioned the goals of the CGs to discover if the gardeners have realised the benefits of the garden. Then the survey further explored the Waterloo Regions CGs and discovered why people participate and what effect the garden has on the community. Often the goals of the garden are not pre-established and congeal only after the benefits and effects have been discovered through the initial seasons. What are your Garden's Goals? Goals are very difficult to define; some of the gardens may never have contemplated what their goals were, beyond growing food, before completing this survey. Many stated that the garden had social goals, but their basic goals were about access to land and fresh vegetables. This researcher believes that the goals of the garden are often unspoken ones, they are intrinsic to the act of gardening; therefore, since they are never thought of as goals they are never expressed as such.

Four respondents mentioned only reduced food cost and/or making land available as their gardens'goals. An example of such a response is from The City of Kitchener Allotment Garden where the goal is to "Provide citizens of Kitchener with an opportunity to gain either recreational benefits or provide opportunity to those who may not otherwise have land available". Also, the Steckle Garden's goal is to "provide education and recreational opportunity for youth and their families."

Many gardens had numerous goals. G.R.O.W. listed seven on their brochure for the garden project:

  1. "To promote skills developed and self esteem through the nurturing of plants and shared decision making in a supportive environment.
  2. To promote good health through physical and outdoor activities.
  3. To increase income and sense of productivity of participants through profits sharing of sales.
  4. To provide horticulture experience and skills to members who wish to seek employment in this field.
  5. To increase participation of rural mental health consumers in a familiar environment.
  6. To increase awareness of the ability of mental health consumers among community members.
  7. To educate the AIM community about the environmentally respectful techniques and principles and to demonstrate these to the larger community."

If one takes the phrase "mental health consumers" and replaces it with those of any other group, the goals could be the same. It is interesting to note that people who are mentally challenged are striving for goals that those who are not challenged may never be able to reach. These goals represent a plethora of issues and prove what is often said; that Community Gardening is more about the people and the community than about the vegetables.

St. John's Kitchen wants to grow organically cultivated food, as well as increase community participation. The Cambridge Self Help Food Bank and the Cedar Hill Community Gardens had similar goals to those of the Waterloo Region Food Bank Garden, who articulated their goals very well;
  1. " To facilitate community cohesion through activities oriented to enhance the quality of life of community members.
  2. Based on people's strengths and interest, encourage their participation in the development of activities that will foster a sense of community.
  3. To strengthen community relationships by offering opportunity for socialisation and sharing".

The University of Waterloo CG had many goals, including financial, and environmental. They are very proud that there were no chemicals used in their CG. The respondent also wrote that the garden was used to create a sense of community and increase the self-reliance of the gardeners. As mentioned in previous chapters, self-reliance is an ultimate goal of many CGs. Being self-reliant by growing fresh food, caring for the land, supporting the community and building stronger bonds with community members are all accomplished best when gardening is done independently and without interference from government agencies. These goals of community building are similar to the goals of the Downtown Kitchener CG. This respondent believes that Kitchener can be a lonely place with many people unemployed. The respondent wrote that the garden could give these people fulfilling work and they are able to help themselves while providing environmental and educational benefits. The Sand Hills Co-op wants its gardens to have affordable fresh vegetables while encouraging social interaction and a sense of 'pride of ownership'in the co-op.

Finally, the garden organiser of the Forest Hill United Church Community Garden presented such a well-rounded list of goals, that if presented to other gardens, this researcher believes that every garden would strive to achieve such a balanced set of objectives: "Economics- to provide space to local apartment dwellers for supplementing food supply. To encourage low-income families to grow some of their own food. Social - To provide a place where common interest will foster goodwill, appreciation of different cultures, methods and customs, promote friendships. Environmental - Promotes good stewardship of land through use of natural fertilisers, cultivation, crop rotation, pest reduction, etc."

Goals are often hard to define and articulate, but this researcher believes that if the respondents were given a list of goals they would endeavour to achieve the most ideal integration of social, economic and environmental benefits. When given a choice, most would strive to complete more than less and include a well-balanced package for the people and for the vegetables.

Meeting the Garden's Goals

The researcher wanted to know if the gardens have met their goals and what were their future predictions for meeting their goals.

Most of the respondents were excited to express how their community garden has grown and flourished. These respondents believe that they have met their gardens'goals and will continue to met them.

Two gardens, the Waterloo Region Food Bank Community Garden and the Forest Hill United Church Community Garden, acknowledge they have not fully met their goals. These two gardens are very ambitious and strive to produce more than just a garden; they also want to produce respectful, productive citizens. These gardeners are realistic and admit that they have not met all their objectives, but they are going to keep trying and are hopeful for the future.

These two respondents had very detailed goals for the garden. By identifying the goals they knew that they still had more to accomplish before meeting them. Therefore, if a CG can define what it wants, it can determine if the garden has actually met its goals. Often a garden will not know what to expect and any positive outcome will deem the garden a success. A CG can have defined or undefined goals. If just one person was effected positively then the CG was a success; however, it must be remember that a garden can help the entire community and should be utilised to its fullest potential.

Having ambitious goals is not detrimental for a garden, but gardeners and organisers must realise that the greater the desired return, the longer the cultivation required; you reap what you sow and when gardening, one must have patience when waiting for any results.

What are the Benefits?

As with defining goals, it is difficult to articulate why people participate in gardens and what the benefits of gardens are to the community. Researchers have previously tried to prove these 'common sense answers'. This researcher did not want to simply repeat the claims of numerous gardening advocates about the benefits of gardening. She wanted to verify these findings for herself; therefore, very difficult questions about goals, benefits and effects were asked of garden organisers in the Waterloo Region. Knowing the answers to these questions is fundamental to understanding the gardening movement. The answers to these questions help to legitimise the gardens and the processes they follow when developing. These answers will reveal that gardeners in Kitchener-Waterloo do it for many reasons, including to build community spirit. The responses give some understanding as to why people garden, and how community gardening affects the community. These survey questions are the most important; the other questions were included to determine the organisational structure, and formulate a general participant profile, for each garden. For these questions some respondents gave single word or single phrase answers, while others gave longer more detailed answers. In most gardens the effects and benefits of gardening are always understood but hard to verbalise and ultimately legitimise. Other respondents captured the essence of gardening and its effects on the community in their responses. The following is an analysis of the respondents'answers to these difficult questions.

The responses were placed in three categories. The first category is labelled 'Basic Goals'for those that gave one word or single phase answers and mostly discussed the garden as a piece of land that only grows food and vegetables. The second category is labelled 'Prove These People Are Capable'and examines the garden as a tool to legitimise people in less fortunate positions. The final category is labelled 'Building Community'and illustrates the ultimate goal of creating a sense of place and becoming self-reliant.

Basic Goals

These answers are very basic and may not capture the true essence of the garden. This may be due to the inability of the respondent to verbalise the garden's goals and benefits or it could be a result of the length of the survey and these questions being open-ended and tedious to answer.

People participate in the Steckle Garden for "recreation/enjoyment, fresh produce, to learn and experiment." The New Hamburg-Wilmot Community Garden believes that the reasons why people participate are "economic reasons primarily; some social aspects are an advantage." Participants of the Beaver Creek Co-op Community Garden do it to "grow produce organically, exercise/fresh air/sunshine, social (visit with other gardeners), save money, and it is good for the environment." The effect on the community was "extremely beneficial." The Kitchener Allotment garden gives recreational and economical benefits. The garden affects the community by making land available to people who would not otherwise have access to such land.

Finally, the Sand Hills Co-op respondent believes that people participate because members'yards are very small and the close garden plots are very convenient. As well, it is economical and residents from other cultures can "retain some of their own culture╔.[by] growing some of the items they were accustomed to eating in their countries." The effect of this garden is that the "next door community association saw our garden, [and] they have decided to initiate a community garden hopefully along with Sand Hills."

The two following categories show a deeper understanding of the garden and its effects on the community.

Prove These People Are Capable

"I think that for the community to see our Food Bank Members working on something for themselves was a testament to dispel some of the myths of Food Bank user" ~ The Cambridge Self Help Food Bank

The respondent for the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank Garden believes that people participate to meet food needs, for the social aspect, for environmental reasons and to complete mandated community hours. The benefits the respondent listed are more about the people than about the food. The respondent believes that the garden and its funding, from a credible company legitimised the project to the users and to the community. Legitimisation is a fundamental word when writing about community gardens. For years people have known about these beneficial effects, but not until these effects are qualitatively substantiated will they be legitimised. This respondent wrote about the community giving the garden credibility. The gardeners had to prove to the Food Bank and to the community that the garden was successful and could be even better. The Caring Community award gave the garden the credibility it needed to start with the "right image". The award and the donation of the land gave a "vote of confidence" to the Food Bank and the users. Food Banks are a badly needed resource, and not until everyone realises this will people understand what a community garden could mean to a family and a community.

The respondent from the St. John's Kitchen wrote why she believes people participate: "people are becoming more aware that they could easily become in need of the services of St. John's Kitchen - many people are one paycheque away. Also - being poor does not mean you should be deprived of fresh organic vegetables - it is an excellent case the people can relate to".

and she went on to write what effect this project has on the community: "This project proves that the poor can and do want to work and help themselves (contrary to what the Harris government would have you believe)."

Both of these garden organisers realise the benefits of being recognised by outsiders. Image means a lot; especially for those who are constantly aware that they cannot support themselves. When projects are recognised and legitimised by outsiders the people who benefit from the charitable services can begin to feel proud of the steps they are taking to provide for themselves. Finally, the St. John's Kitchen respondent wrote, "The project is simple and effective, involving all sorts of people from all walks of life." Therefore, basically anyone can participate and be successful, and it promotes a deeper appreciation and acceptance of individual differences. This idea of acceptance leads into the next category of community building. Only when people accept differences will strong, positive communities begin to form.

All of these ideas are based on promoting self-esteem. When people believe in themselves they can do great things. G.R.O.W.'s mission statement includes the word 'self-esteem'. This phrase is included because they are working with people who have experienced difficulties throughout their lives, and often they are not accepted by society and do not accept themselves as productive and capable people. This phrase is also used because they are working with people, and people need to feel some level of self-esteem to continue and strive for a better life. When a person works hard in a garden, he or she learns to nurture and care for the plants, and soon, if he or she has worked very hard, a life will bloom and nourish them or simply make them feel proud of their accomplishment. The resulting chain reaction of positive feelings is only limited by one's imagination. Therefore, legitimisation of the garden and gardener creates self-esteem, an important benefit.

Build a Sense of Community

"[The] garden is the central point where people meet other people, make friends, share ideas, and build community. It helps them [gardeners] to break social isolation and to learn about community resources." Region of Waterloo Food Bank

This researcher believes that building a sense of community is one of the greatest challenges facing city planners today and when accomplished, it has the potential of lasting lifetimes, and solving urban problems before they arise. Many of Waterloo Region's CGs are on the outskirts of urban areas, and although these somewhat remote locations may preclude the creation of community within a neighbourhood, a sense of community can still be created within the garden itself.

Getting to know your neighbours or the people with whom you 'weed'can help make a person feel more comfortable and productive. The Woolwich Community Garden respondent wrote that the garden helps people meet others in the community and by making friends the work becomes more enjoyable. Gardeners have told this organiser that they like gardening for the social aspects, especially the group efforts "such as putting up our fence." These group activities consist of hard work and many hours, but this is why people garden, to be a member of a productive group and to accomplish something in a day. When someone likes where he or she is and what he or she is doing, any project will be successful. The Cedar Hill Community Garden organiser goes on to write that even though their garden is very small "for those interested and involved it improves the quality of life in the city immensely."

Only the co-ordinator for the Forest Hill United Church Community Garden mentioned a political aspect to the benefits of community gardening; however, the researcher believes if the respondents were directly asked more gardens would have this opinion. Along with legitimising CGs the organiser goes on to state that CGs are "raising the consciousness level of [the] value of gardens in high density areas -- providing land for people to produce some of their own food." She goes on to say that CGs are "encouraging city council to look at [the] need for community gardens in new suburbs when multi-housing and high density apartments are being built." She recognises that the gardens have such a strong, positive impact that they should influence the decision-makers to promote the use of gardens in new communities. It is obvious to both users and non-users alike that CGs create a sense of community. These gardens help people become "more aware of the need for food by low-income families, single parent families, and food bank users." The organiser wrote that people are gardening to enjoy the outings as a group and as a chance to leave the confines of the apartment building. Even in crowded apartment complexes, people often feel alone and isolated until they join an activity like a garden and become part of this motivated and friendly family. Finally, the respondent wrote that the benefit of their garden is that the "community [is] being educated about the benefits of community gardens"; therefore, hopefully more people will be able to experience the gratification and the bounty of a successful garden in their community.

The Waterloo Region Food Bank Community Garden respondent believes that people participate in the garden for many reasons. The organiser goes on to say that the effects are threefold: economic, social, and environmental. The economic benefits, like most gardens, give people the opportunity to have fresh produce in the summer months and canned or frozen produce the rest of the year. The environmental benefits extend from eating organic food and sustaining the earth by eliminating chemicals that could contaminate the environment. This respondent summarises the environmental effects by writing "We are promoting it [environmental consciousness] and providing a sustainable way to feed ourselves."

This respondent summarised the social effect of a garden with the following words, "[the] garden is the central point where people meet other people, make friends, share ideas and build community." The researcher believes that building community is essential. Since community can be built on a vacant piece of land, by giving confidence to the people and ensuring outside legitimisation, then gardens should be given more respect. Gardening has become an effective tool for creating confident and successful communities. The Waterloo Region Food Bank Garden organiser went on to say "It helps them [gardeners] to break social isolation and to learn about community resource." Often the connections between the people who need help and those that can help are unsuccessful. If something as seemingly simply as a CG can connect people to places, gardens should be revered, promoted and protected. CGs do build community beyond the borders of the garden and bring the people from the isolation of their home to the comforts of an accepting and prosperous environment.

These effects and benefits have been stated by many garden advocates and this survey and this paper demonstrates that these benefits of CG are thriving in the Waterloo Region. Still, the Region of Waterloo creates barriers, which affect the CGs. The following illustrates the problem of permanency and of accessibility of lands in the Waterloo Region.

Land Ownership

This is an analysis of the survey question regarding the issue of land ownership and location. It addresses the issue of land ownership and how it affects the garden. It should be kept in mind that land ownership is a very important issue for CGs; ownership affects a site's permanence, it may restrict gardeners and negate the sense of ownership that is needed to promote a prosperous garden. By knowing who owns the land, how this ownership affects the garden and how the land is being made accessible, one may note if there is a problem and how it can be overcome.

As mentioned in pervious chapters, the greatest problem with community gardens is their lack of permanence. Most of the literature on CG is based on large American cities where land is a limited commodity and in-fill projects take up all of the vacant land. The Waterloo Region is very different, the area is large and the cities are spread-out. There is plenty of room in the urban areas, and a lot of available farmland close-by. Land ownership was divided into three categories: four gardens were owned by government agencies, seven were owned by organisations and individuals owned three gardens.

There were five out of fourteen respondents who did not consider their gardens to be 'long-term'. This result is very different from what was originally anticipated; it was believed that more gardens would be threatened by lack of permanence. The structure of land in the Waterloo Region allows more gardeners to be secure from the pressing threat of development. The researcher originally thought that, like the gardens in New York, the most vulnerable gardens would be on land owned by the government; this was an incorrect assumption. There is no consistency regarding the type of ownership and the lack of permanency to the garden. Out of the five gardens that are threatened, two are government owned, two are owned by an organisation and one is on privately owned land. Three gardens, Woolwich Community Garden, University of Waterloo and G.R.O.W., do not feel as though theirs'are long-term sites; therefore, they are unable to do any future planning or construction of permanent fixtures on the sites. The lack of security does not allow these gardens to plan for the future and grow beyond the confines of yearly permission. The Downtown Kitchener Community garden was actually labelled as 'permanent'by the respondent, but with the acknowledgement that the City might build a road through it; therefore, the researcher placed it on the non-permanent category. The Cambridge Self Help Food Bank Garden is not concerned about permanence of the current site, but they are concerned about its inaccessible location. Waterloo Region is very spread-out and getting from point A to point B may be impossible if garden participants do not have a car.

In cities such as New York the city limits are more confined. New York CGs are usually located in vacant neighbourhood lots, which although making their security precarious, ensures easier access. Thirty-eight percent of the Waterloo Region's CGs are characterised by lack of security, but a greater concern is garden location and accessibility. Most of the gardens in the Waterloo Region are located beyond neighbourhood boundaries, which usually requires the users to travel a fair distance to the site, which increases time commitments and cost while eliminating those without vehicles; access to gardens is the major problem facing Waterloo Region's CGs.

Land Location

The survey asked whether the garden is located within the community and what effect this location has on the gardens. There was a problem with this question. Some respondents felt that the garden was part of the community when it was simply located in the city. A better word might have been 'neighbourhood'or the survey might have asked whether people have to drive to the site. Even though there was some confusion, the answers were analysed.

Seven respondents wrote that their gardens were located within the community and all believed that easy access was an asset and made it easier to continue with the project. The New Hamburg-Wilmot Community Garden was offered a site outside of the community but turned it down because they wanted to ensure that the maintenance of the plots was quick and easy. Four other respondents said that their sites were within the community it served but that gardeners need their own transportation. The last three said that their gardens were outside of the community served and did not specify whether cars were needed or if public transportation was available. These last seven respondents all raised issues regarding access. Some realised that for many of the participants the location and lack of bus routes creates a problem, especially for low income families trying to find a less expensive way to feed their families.

Access was the greatest concern of the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank Garden, and a primary concern for many other locations. The make-up of the land in the Waterloo Region makes land available for gardens, especially on the rural outskirts of the towns. Since there is so much available farmland, gardens are offered rural land; therefore, encouraging gardens to locate outside of their neighbourhood. When a garden is located within the community it helps the entire neighbourhood, not just those who choose to participate in the garden. These neighbourhood gardens become more prosperous since users and non-users can gaze at the garden and speak of the benefits it has brought. As well, when a garden is located within easy access, preferably walking distance, it is not a chore to go to the garden and continue with the gardening community. Instead the garden is always a visible reminder of its benefits to the gardener and the community.


CGs can be what one makes of them. They can create a minimal effect or they can transform people, neighbourhoods and cities. It is obvious that gardens have different effects on various people and organisations. These differences need to be accepted and garden organisers need to realise that different users will want different benefits. Meeting these diverse goals is only a matter of establishing a garden that is flexible enough to allow any user to feel comfortable and accreted; of course, easier said then done!

A garden's goals are important in defining what the garden will accomplish. The more ambitious the goals, the greater the accomplishment. These goals are often not defined and the many benefits will only be recognised after the initial garden season. The benefits may be as simple as the fresh food or as triumphant as a renewed sense of community. The reasons people garden are as varied as the gardeners, but it appears that most garden for a range of reasons, including the economic, environmental and especially the social aspects. The benefits of CGs have been documented repeatedly, and now this paper has documented these benefits in the Waterloo Region. Waterloo Region faces some problem with their gardens; some garden organisers feel their gardens are threatened by the lack of permanence. Those gardens that are not located within their geographic community are also threatened. The CGs of Waterloo Region create a sense of community, but to expand this community beyond the fences of the gardens the land needs to be within the neighbourhood and directly serve the users. The benefits of CGs are great and no garden should be eliminated, even if it boarders on rural land, it should simply be that more gardens be incorporated into the city and it infrastructure.

Chapter 6 - Results, Conclusions and Recommendations

"Community Gardening
is more about the people
and the community
than about the vegetables."


The survey produced two major results. The first relates to the survey and how it was conducted, what could have been improved, and what succeeded. The second result was discovering Waterloo Region's CG scene. CGs have various issues to contend with, depending on their locations. Although there are differences, several common threads bind the plight of most CGs.

The Survey

Fourteen out of a possible twenty-one surveys were returned. Sixty-seven percent is a fairly good return rate for a survey in any form. The best result would have been to receive all or at least close to a hundred percent return rate, but this was a long survey and the respondents had to write out all the answers. Therefore, a response rate of over sixty percent is considered very acceptable and is even a little surprising. It appears that the people who are involved in CGs are advocates of its benefits and are willing to take any opportunity to discuss their garden's virtues. Although the survey was mailed in the winter months, the days were just getting longer and there was a hope for an early spring. Receiving this survey when just beginning to plan the new growing season may have helped to motivate garden organisers to complete the survey.

The researcher believes that a higher response rate and more powerful quotations would have been collected if the survey had been conducted by telephone or by personal interview. Unfortunately, neither time nor equipment allowed for this procedure. As well, personal interviews would have allowed the researcher to move beyond the established questions, which might have resulted in incomparable results. On the other hand, personal interviews may have ensured that the respondents knew what was being asked, but might have lead to another problem of leading or structuring the answers by the interviewer. Personal interviews would have also been good for exploring ideas that the researcher had missed or for adding more questions to gain a fuller understanding. However the mailed surveys served their purpose and produced useful information.

In hindsight, after choosing to mail the survey, the Community Garden Network list should not have been solely relied upon. This list was compiled in 1998 and it was assumed to be a complete list. Yet some garden contacts had changed, and these contacts may not have been the best people to mail the survey to. A better procedure would have been to contact each person by telephone to inform them about the scope of the survey and to ask them if they would consider completing the survey and if they thought they were the appropriate person to do so. This initial contact would have been more personal and would have ensured that the appropriate person received the survey, which may have resulted in a greater response rate. In the end, however, this mailed survey was successful and confirmed some of the ideas the researcher had about CGs, challenged others, and brought new ones to light regarding the CG situation in the Waterloo Region.

Waterloo Region

Not surprisingly, the Waterloo Region's CGs have different problems than those encountered by gardens in major cities. The major obstacle in the Waterloo Region is access. The issue of accessibility was only mentioned in some of the literature, yet it appears to be a greater problem for the Waterloo Region. Waterloo Region is very dispersed and there is rural land located very close to the city, which may be one of the reasons there are many gardens in the Region. But this land is only accessible by car. Like CGs in other areas, many of Waterloo Region's gardens are intended for less fortunate people, yet these people usually do not have cars. The positive benefits of gardening may be lost if land is not made accessible to the people who need it. Bus routes do not accommodate urban gardeners and car pools can only work if there is a pool of cars to rely on. Waterloo Region's CGs are lucky because there are so many generous landowners, but most of them are located outside of the city's core. As noted above, the author makes no attempt to categorise what 'is'or 'is not'a community garden, but if these gardens were actually located in the neighbourhoods they serve, the benefits would undoubtedly be increased, not only for the users but for the entire surrounding area.

Permanence is an issue. Even in cities as different as Waterloo and New York, the gardens have their similarities; permanence is a problem for many urban gardens. Permanence is a constant issue for CGs and is continuously mentioned in the literature because of this ongoing problem in cities like New York. Waterloo, even with its vast amount of vacant land, has problems of permanence. Waterloo is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and three of the respondents wrote that they only have access to the land until there are plans for development. Waterloo is not confined to a small area and builders do not demand inner city land. Unlike New York, where almost every inch of vacant land is built upon, Waterloo developers can simply build outside the city limits. Therefore, vacant rural or urban land that is used for gardens can also be threatened by development, which adds to the greater lack of security for the CGs. Waterloo has land for gardeners; they are lucky, but gardeners must still be cautious that their gardens are not slated for roads, or other developments.

An interesting finding is that most of the responses were from gardens that were started by established organisations. None of the gardens are referred to as 'neighbourhood'gardens and only one was started because of a community initiative. The other gardens were started as an extension of other services that an organisation provided, such as the Food Bank, church members or co-op members.

Initially the researcher thought that only gardens started by the community members themselves would be successful; this was an invalid assumption. It has been realised that if the garden is started by an organisation that the users trust, and if they are given some control over the garden, then an organisation based CG can still flourish.

These original thoughts stem from projects like the Kitchener Allotment garden. This garden does not seem to promote a sense of community as one of its goals. This garden is valued only for its land, the produce cultivated and the exercise gained. Is the Kitchener Allotment Garden a Community Garden? One would have to answer the question 'what is community?'which could take a few doctoral theses. So, it is left as a thought, but one must also keep in mind that although this garden is not developed as a social activity to create community, it has been successful for the past twenty-six years. The researcher believes that if the users are part of the organisation and creation of the garden it will be more beneficial than if the garden is organised and maintained by the government or another bureaucratic agencies. However, not until the end of the survey analysis was it realised that this community development does not mean a resident has to initiate the program. A CG can be an organisation's project, trusting they share in the garden's responsibilities and accomplishments.

The researcher's initial assumption was to classify all gardens into two categories, including government organised or resident initiative gardens. These categories would only have represented the land ownership or initial development strategies of the gardens. Such restrictive categories could not represent the essence of the different gardens. Community gardens are individual, and although their benefits and security may be similar they all have unique features that must be acknowledged and maintained. This merger of collective individuality is what creates community, when different people can come together on common ground a community may be built; any garden can nourish vegetables -- only a few can nourish people and communities.


After reading the literature and completing the survey analysis it was found that the major problem for Community Gardening is a conundrum of solutions and threats. Throughout the paper it has been stressed that legitimisation is mandatory for any garden to be successful. Now, it must be explained how legitimisation may threaten the very benefits sought from a CG.

Legitimisation can come from a variety of sources. Non-users can give legitimacy to a garden program by supporting the program and showing their confidence and respect. Mark Francis (1987) found that non-users refer to a garden as being more beautiful than a well-groomed park it neighbours. A 'vote of confidence'from non-users can help any gardener to remain proud and productive and it can especially help when the gardeners are people who require social assistance and need to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Legitimisation can come from the gardeners themselves. City officials and other residents have said that urban gardens would not be fruitful in cities because of bad soil, lack of commitment or vandalism. However, urban gardens have proven skeptics wrong; therefore, with their successful gardens, gardeners legitimised their efforts, at least to themselves.

Finally, legitimisation can come from city officials. By supporting and praising gardens, city officials can encourage greater acceptance and the wider use of CGs as a tool to aid in the development of a sense of community. With the legitimisation of the garden from the users, non-users and the city officials, the opportunity for protection and permanence greatly increases. Users may bring about permanence because they know the beneficial effects the garden has on a community and they will fight for its safety with the knowledge that they are doing the right thing. As well, if non-users accept the benefits of the garden, they too can fight for its safety and pressure the politicians to save the gardens. It is always surprising that needs are never recognised if the person who has the need states it. Needs are only legitimised when a group of outsiders finally agree that there is a need. Therefore, by non-users understanding the needs and benefits of CGs, they can help legitimise and protect the gardens. Finally, when both users and non-users can agree on the benefits of CGs, politicians will begin to accept gardening as a legitimised tool. Once politicians announce their support for CGs gardens are closer to being accepted, legitimised and preserved. Support from politicians can begin the process of legal documentation for the preservation and encouragement of CGs.

Here arises the conundrum. The garden needs to be legitimised by the city officials, yet the gardens should not be subject to city guidelines or policies. Issues such as safety may obviously need to be addressed, but the community, using their own standards may resolve even this issue. Once a city documents or zones a use, it seems inevitable that it will be subject to unforgiving rules. Often when a city writes a policy it will state where amenities should be located, or how water works should be laid or developed and some may even go as far as to state what can and cannot be grown. Writing a policy seems to be the next logical step when legitimising a service or project, but for CG this process may destroy the initial benefits that are trying to be encouraged.

Conforming to the structured confines of an idealised and legislated city-run CG will not develop the goals of self-esteem and self-reliance that are trying to be accomplished. The entire process of building, maintaining and operating a CG is what creates these positive outcomes. Catherine Sneed of the San Francisco Jail Garden program knows that if she did not allow the gardeners to come up with new ideas and become confident in their own judgements, the program would not be successful (The Garden Project). The respondent from the Waterloo Region Food Bank knows gardeners have to feel like part of the process in order to receive the best benefits. Even the very successful Kitchener Allotment Garden has a been victim of the limitations of the City's goals for the garden. This may be because it has been saturated by the City structure and it is not the City's goal to create a social environment. This garden may have social aspects that a City employee may not be part of; therefore he/she cannot describe them. Regardless, the Kitchener Allotment garden is an example of how bureaucracy just makes CG vegetable factories and not the community development and self-esteem building tools they can be.

Where are CGs left in this conundrum? They have to be legitimised to be protected, but they have to be sheltered from the bureaucracy of standardisation and be kept at the level of individual planning and development. Gardens should be protected as 'community open spaces'and the gardeners should be given control over the land. Such an unstructured land use may initially be a struggle for many city departments to understand and accept. For programs such as this it will take a 'paradigm shift'from the idea that a blanket policy is a solution, to acknowledging that people and communities are too different for a universal policy. This program will give the cities less control over the land, and officials will need to have more confidence in people and their ability to create greatness.

It is understood that the cities need to have some reign over the land's safety and security. Issues such as insurance and liability can be tackled by giving the garden to the users via a Land Trust or in some way distancing the city's liability. It has often been said that if the initial garden organisers leave, a garden will disband. Therefore, if the city were going to give this land to a garden they would want to ensure that it is going to continue in some manner. The city should give land to groups that have established themselves. Inevitably this process may discriminate against gardeners who want to start the garden first and have an organisation second. However, the researcher acknowledges that cities need at least this level of control. Establishing a group of gardeners can provide many benefits for a new garden, including organisational security and garden legitimacy. A city would have to trust the group of gardeners to provide CGs with land and legal protection, while ensuring limited or no official interaction; this trust of city officials is part of a CG's legitimisation process.

With the knowledge that in the Region of Waterloo CGs have been successful but are still threatened the researcher has established a list of recommendations for the Gardeners, the City Planners and the Municipality.


For the Gardeners

For City Planners

For Municipalities

Chapter 7 Author's Reflections

"The gardeners share their stories and their feelings, first about their garden and then

Author's Reflections

It appears that the saga of Community Gardening has come full circle. The lessons learned by citizens and politicians of the past have been forgotten and that is why CGs are still threatened. It has been proven that gardens are a less expensive way to supply quality open space. It has been proven that users and non-users alike believe that a garden is a better and more beautiful environment than traditional 'open spaces'. It has been proven that there are numerous social benefits that range from helping people become part of society to making a new friend. It has been proven that CGs often save gardeners badly needed money on their grocery bills. Still the effects of gardening go un-legitimised and unprotected from the perils of the city (which, ironically is what creates the need for the garden).

History is repeating itself because we have not learned our lesson. Gardens began as 'make work'projects for poor relief and still in 1999 the Cambridge Food Bank Community Garden uses labour from people that have to do community service work. By the end of World War II gardens were only for the meek and those that did not support themselves. Even today food bank users who supplement their diet by gardening have not been recognised as people who want the opportunity to do better and have an accomplished life. The Moral Gardens encouraged 'pedigree'lands because civic beautifiers believed that tidy land represented a higher moral standard and this attitude stays with toady's city official. Recently, Francis (1985) and Quayle (1986) have documented how planners and other city officials believe that citizens feel gardens are not as attractive as manicured parks; however, users and non-users of the parks and gardens proclaim the exact opposite. The commitment of the gardeners is evident from the past success of the War Gardens to the current battles to save today's CGs.

The past has taught us that gardens offer wonderful benefits; present gardens will testify to those benefits. Underprivileged urban gardeners do not often involve themselves in the politics of city life, because they often feel as if they have been forgotten. However, CGs have excited these people. A tiny, rubble-strewn piece of land has brought people together and they are prepared to fight to protect what they have created. With prickliness, petitions and letter writing campaigns, people who have never believed in the system believe in a garden. After all this we still do not give proper credit to the benefits of a garden. We have not learned our lesson from history. So what does the future hold; another repetition of past mistakes?

Can we finally accept the garden as a vibrant and wholesome addition to urban life? Can we finally legitimise this land use? Can we finally allow the gardeners to be their own stewards of the land and of their community? Can we finally believe what the gardeners have always said and accept their testimony to the benefits of gardens? It must be remembered what Janick put so elegantly. " Earth is a plant-oriented planet. The green plant is fundamental to all other life. Were humanity to perish tomorrow, vines would destroy our mighty temples and grass would soon grow in the main streets of the world. In contrast, the disappearance of plants would be accompanied by the disappearance of humankind along with every other animal" (Janick, 1992; 19) If we do not accept gardens, we will have lost all their possible benefits; and in the end it will still be nature that wins.

Appendix A - Cover Letter with Survey

(University of Waterloo, School of Planning Crest)

Dena Warman
University of Waterloo
School of Planning
(519) 725-9800

Organizers Name
Garden's Name

Dear Organisers,

My name is Dena Warman and I am a 4th year Planning student at the University of Waterloo. I am currently working on my senior honours essay to complete my undergraduate degree. I am conducting research under Laura Johnson, a professor at the School of Planning, on community gardens and their effect(s) on communities. I will be compiling and analysing the different ways community gardens are structured and run, in order to conclude whether such a community initiative creates a more co-operative and self-sufficient community. Your name was one of several contacts on a list provided by the Community Gardening Network. Thus, your opinion is important to my study.

I would appreciate if you or a member of your garden would complete the attached survey. The questions are quite general and you may be as brief or elaborate as desired, you may also omit any questions you prefer not to answer. Completion of this survey is expected to take 30 minute of your time, and participation in this project is voluntary. This project has been reviewed by, and received ethic clearance through, the Office of Human Research & Animal Care at the University of Waterloo.

It would be greatly appreciated if you would return the completed survey, and any other information you would like to provide related to your garden, in the self-addressed, stamped envelope by February 4, 1999. If however, you have any questions or concerns about this study, or would like additional information before reaching a decision about participation, please contact the Office of Human Research & Animal Care at 888-4567 Ext. 6005.

I realise that there has been a great deal of recent interest in community gardening. However, the information to be collected for my project is independent of any previous studies. With your agreement I would like to include the names of the study participants, and possible quotes from the survey document, in my final essay. However, if you prefer to remain anonymous please indicate this in the second to last questions.

I plan to conduct follow-up interviews with a small number of those surveyed. The last item on the survey asks if I could call you for a possible discussion regarding a follow-up interview. Finally, I would be more than willing to present my findings to a meeting of community gardens. If such a presentation is not feasible a brief summery of my findings will be sent to those who participate.

Thank you very much for your help, please fell free to contact me regarding questions about the survey.

Good Luck in the 1999 growing season,
Dena Warman
Student Investigator

Appendix B - Survey

Community Gardening Survey (Please feel free to expand to the back or another page)

You and Your Position Within the Garden

  1. Do you have a formal title for your position in the garden organisation? If yes, what is it?

  2. How were you selected for this position?

  3. How long have you been in this position?

  4. What are your responsibilities?

  5. Is your position (x paid) (x unpaid?)

  6. Is your position (x part-time) (x full-time?)

  7. What is your required commitment, (x year-round) (x growing season?) Please explain.

  8. What, if any, benefits do you receive from doing this job?

  9. What, if any, are the costs of doing this job?

The Garden Itself

  1. Who owns the land on which your garden is located?

  2. If the gardeners do not own the land, how is it being made accessible to them?

  3. How does the land ownership affect the operation of the garden?

  4. Would you consider this a long-term gardening site? Please explain.

  5. What is the average usage rate (every plot used, only a few)? Please elaborate.

  6. Is there ever a waiting list? If yes, how long is the list?

  7. If yes to (6), what are the chances that people on the list will be able to be part of your garden?

  8. In the next five years do you anticipate any increase or decrease in the size of your garden.

The People and the Garden

  1. Are there any services offered to the participants? If so what are they?

  2. Are there any organised activities? × No × Yes If yes, what are they?

  3. If yes to (2), what do you see as their benefit to the garden community?

  4. Does gardener contact continue over the winter? How?

  5. Are there any rules to participate in the garden? If yes, what are they and how are they enforced?

  6. How is the garden financed?

  7. If there is a fee for the gardener is it ever waived for special circumstances? Please explain.

  8. What is planted in this garden?

  9. What, if anything, is prohibited in the garden?

  10. Are there any outlets for surplus produce?

  11. If yes to (11), what are they?

  12. Are the activities described in (11) and (12) organised by the garden? How and by whom?

  13. What do you believe are the goal(s) of your garden (be it economic, social, political, environmental and/or other.)? Please elaborate as much as possible.

  14. In the past how successful was your garden at meeting its goals?

  15. Currently how successful is your garden at meeting its goals?

  16. What are your future predictions for this gardens ability to meet its goals?

  17. Is your garden located within or outside the community it serves?

  18. What is the effect of this location on the garden and its participants? Please elaborate.

The Gardener

(Please expand as much as possible for the next questions)

  1. Approximately what percentage of ____ men and ____ women are in your garden?

  2. Of your total garden approximately what percent of each age group participates in your garden?
    Children (1-12)____% Youth (13-25) ____% Adults (26-45) ____% Mature Adults (45 +) ____% Don't Know ____

  3. Of your total garden what percentage of people fall into these income levels?
    Low ___ % Middle____% High____% Don't Know____

  4. Some community gardens incorporate people with special needs (i.e. disabled), do any of your gardeners have special circumstances, if so what are they and how does the garden help meet their needs.

  5. Why do you believe people participate in this garden (be it social, economic, environmental, political and/or other)? Please elaborate as much as possible.

  6. What effect, if any, do you believe that your garden has on your community (be it social, economic, environmental, political and/or other)? Please elaborate as much as possible.

Please include any other information you would like to provide related to your garden in the stamped envelope.

Thank you very much for your time!

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