Community Digs

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, and Kayla Feenstra

Community gardening has seen a massive explosion in BC in the past five years. Some urban gardens with humble beginnings have tripled and quadrupled many times over. People line up on registration day to get a coveted plot, only to discover all plots were taken within the first 15 minutes. What’s the big deal? Who’s digging it, and why?


  • Young singles and families in apartments.
  • Immigrants who welcome an opportunity to do a little farming.
  • Retirees who share their knowledge with others or want to be out in the sun.
  • People interested in learning more about community gardening or gardening in general.


  • People are taking a greater interest in what they eat, where their food comes from, how the seeds were produced and which fertilizers or pesticides were used on the plants.
  • Parents and grandparents want children to understand where their food comes from and that salad greens don’t grow in plastic containers.
  • In this era of technological isolation, digging in adjacent plots brings a wealth of social interaction between age groups, races, religions and across other social divides.
  • Sharing resources, knowledge, education and life experience enriches us all.
  • Gardening decreases food costs. Often, tools, seeds, manure and other forms of support are donated by local organizations and small, locally owned businesses. With time, perhaps larger chain stores may jump on board and donate to these popular and worthwhile projects.
  • Community-building aspects emerge. For example, a neighbour will weed an unkempt plot or water plants for a gardening acquaintance away on holiday.
  • With such gardens showing up in many locations, people often walk or bike to their garden plot.
  • Delivering fertilizer, supplies or water to one group is more efficient and less costly than delivering to several locations.
  • Growing plants is therapeutic. Getting your hands in the soil, watching a plant grow from a sprout and taking produce home for a meal is profoundly satisfying. Watching the awe in a child`s eyes after pulling on green foliage to discover a carrot is worth all the weeding.

Other benefits

  • Community gardens provide work experience and teach patience and understanding.
  • They create safety in neighbourhoods: gardeners watch out for what`s going on.


  • Community gardens fill up in March or April and planting can begin as early as March. There are opportunities to join throughout the year, however, as some crops are suitable for winter.

Online resources

Search online. Type in your region with the words “community gardens.” Also check out the websites below:

  • Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertstons’s blog: www.mayorofvancouver.ca/?p=2419
  • Gardens in Fraser Valley: www.milllakecommunitygarden.wordpress.com
  • Answers to the mystery behind all those SOLEFood boxes of earth near BC Place: http://1sole.wordpress.com/

And if you don’t want to garden, but you like the idea, why not sponsor a plot and give someone a chance to grow organic produce?

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and author who loves growing basil for vegan pesto and kale year- round. (www.camd58.sg-host.com) Kayla Feenstra is a gardening expert in the Fraser Valley and she donates her time, truck and gardening services to initiate and give extensive support to community gardens in the Fraser Valley. (www.dragonlilygardens.com)

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