As Lethbridge continues to grow, community gardens play an important role for a range of reasons, environmentally, socially and economically. Community gardens; develop otherwise unused areas into fertile and productive green spaces, provide fresh, locally grown produce to a multitude of community members and groups, offer hands-on educational opportunities, and act as a space for people to gather, learn and collaborate. As Lethbridge continues to establish and support community gardens, it is important to understand what they are and the benefits they provide.
At its very core, a community garden is a garden space, typically growing vegetables, fruit, or other edible plants, that is located in a shared space, rather than a private yard. There are two main types of community gardens: allotment and collective. Allotment gardens are a shared space, but plots are assigned or rented to individuals to plant, maintain and harvest themselves. Collective gardens are maintained by a group as a whole, who all cooperate to plant and maintain the garden, and in turn share whatever is produced. Although different in approach, both types of garden offer opportunities for collaboration and community growth.
Lethbridge is home to both allotment and collective community gardens. Campus Roots, an allotment garden, is located at the University of Lethbridge, When it was founded in 2008, Campus roots was intended for use by students and staff affiliated with UofL, however, in 2010 the garden was expanded to be a community garden for the whole of Lethbridge. The Grow It! community garden is located at the Lethbridge Animal Shelter, and also offers individual plots to community members.
Both the Kinsmen Open Community Garden (in Kinsmen Park) and the Westminster Community Garden (located at the Boys and Girls Club) are collective gardens, where groups work together to maintain the plots. Established in May of this year, the Westminster Community Garden’s development is being led by the Boys and Girls Club, with the hope that it will provide a space for both the community and the club to learn and share in.
The Copperwood Circle Community Garden is entering its first growing season, and serves the Copperwood neighbourhood. With both individual and joint plots, the garden acts as both a collective and allotment community garden. The neighbourhoods of Legacy Ridge, Senator Buchanan and Nicholas Sheran are also working to develop community gardens that also offer both types of plots.
The Interfaith Learning Garden at the Interfaith Food Bank is an example of a Learning Garden in our city. The garden grows produce for cooking classes that are offered through the Interfaith Chinook Country Kitchen, with any excess produce going directly to food bank clients. The garden is open to the public, and offers a variety of programming and workshops that are open to the public, creating a space that provides interactive learning experiences.
If you’re interested in joining or starting a community garden, reach out to the community gardens that exist already in the city. Even if they don’t have plots available, many have wait lists you can join, and both allotment and collective gardens are always looking for volunteers! Talking to existing community gardens can also be a great way to get the ins and out of community gardening if you are looking to start your own. Whether you’re an avid gardener, or just starting out, community gardening is a fantastic way to learn about plant growth and care, grow your own fruit and veg, and get to know the people in your community.
The City of Lethbridge is investigating ways to support neighbourhoods in developing community gardens. Stay tuned for future opportunities to get involved and share your thoughts!