|Young people exploring in Jackson's Garden, Montana|
Dear Sharing Garden Coordinators,
First, I would like to congratulate you on your hard work, innovation, and obvious compassion for community. Good work deserves good thanks, whether it happens in your own backyard or across the country!
Upon seeing your Sharing Garden featured in the most recent ACGA newsletter I was pleased to find a community garden project similar to the organization I am a VISTA Member with in Southwest Montana. I was even more pleased to learn that your project operates in a setting equally as rural as my own! (I hope that you will take the time to look into our project, called Jackson's Garden
, in Sheridan Montana.) Despite my best efforts, I have found evidence of very few gardens like yours and ours. I'm not sure if this is simply lack of exposure, or if we really are as rare as I think. But either way, it's a concept that I think deserves much more attention that it has received.
I believe that there has been too little attention paid to the rural
community gardening. Because of the the wider availability of land and prevalence of traditional skill sets in subsistence agriculture, the concept of small plot community gardening as it has been established in urban settings seems hardly applicable. The truth is that the reasons for community gardening in a rural setting are different, though related, to those of urban settings. And because of this, and many misconceptions about rural lifestyles, the community gardening movement tends to overlook us.
I believe, as I think you might, that a Sharing Garden, or Communal Gardening as we refer to our project, is the most applicable model to rural settings, and I'm quite convinced that this model needs to be promoted and shared with other communities. While I see some differences in the way our two projects are run, the basic concept is the same - grow your food together and you grow more food, and build more community.
My observations lead me to believe that there are some very specific aspects of rural lifestyle that make this model not only possible but the most effective method of putting food on our community's table.
Yet sadly, community gardening advocates and researchers pay little attention to the communal or shared gardening method and
rural community gardening in general. Did you know that the last peer reviewed academic paper to appear on rural community gardening was published in 1999? Since then, the research community, which has time and time again proven the benefits of urban community gardening, has done little more than mention our cause along side their larger concerns.