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Canada: Urban gardening is a way to build community

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Wealth, culture are irrelevant to a row of carrots, Kate Hamilton writes

By Kate Hamilton
Oct 12, 2019


The plots pulled us outdoors on both practical and journey levels.

Stewardship of a non-human entity. Stewardship, even if temporary, fosters agency, a big contributor to well-being. Participants decided for themselves what to grow and how. Their learning and production were their own doing. That showed as a modest pride.

Also, engaging with a non-human entity is ineluctably democratizing. Wealth, skin tone, language are irrelevant to a row of carrots. Growing vegetables is surprisingly difficult; status accrues to character and incremental achievement. Adjunct therapies (equine, canine) also take us outside the human, social realm. I believe this to be a precondition for collegiality.

Metaphors. Gardening, especially growing vegetables, stimulates reflection. Plants, like us, need a nourishing environment to thrive. They put down roots, bear fruit. A seed takes time to become a lettuce. A melon depends on beings unlike itself. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. What floats to mind as one works often bears on what is happening in one’s life.

Today I work in Toronto with Building Roots, co-ordinating a tiny urban farm on the historic Ashbridge Estate. All the above factors are present — and also the collegial culture and participants’ wide smiles.

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