BBC Grower Terri Gillingham on the importance of community gardens

Just over a week ago, American Building Community (ABC) hosted a garden party and open house to celebrate the completion of the Village Plaza Garden, a brand-new (and absolutely beautiful!) community garden in the Rose Village Neighborhood.

ABC received a grant from the Walmart Foundation to construct the Village Plaza Garden and several other community gardens in the area known as the Fourth Plain Corridor. Although this seed money was essential, the message from all of the speakers at the Garden’s grand opening was clear: the Village Plaza garden was a true community effort. An army of enthusiastic volunteers provided the true power behind the project and helped create something truly special.

BBC grower Terri Gillingham has been deeply involved in the project. At the grand opening, she shared her thoughts on the importance of community gardens. We wanted to share them with all of you as well. Here’s the text from Terri’s speech:

I have been gardening since I was a little girl. I can’t imagine not being able to garden, to get my hands in the dirt and grow something, especially my own food. When I learned about American Building Community’s garden projects I knew that I just had to join their efforts in creating this garden.

My involvement with the creation of this garden has been so much fun. I loved the whole experience…the meetings, the planning, the work parties, and soon the planting of seeds and plants, and mentoring of new vegetable gardeners. But the most wonderful thing is the sense of community that this little garden has created in this neighborhood. It has brought neighbors together all working toward improving their food security and creating a greener landscape while cultivating neighborhood pride and a safer place to live.

Studies have been conducted that prove that gardens and landscaped sidewalks deter crime and vandalism. Greenscapes create more foot traffic for businesses. One study I read stated that people will stop and look in a window that has flower boxes outside or plants visible from the windows and will go in to shop.  Plants talk to our hearts and our sense of security and comfort.

Growing food is our heritage. Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the new country was an agrarian society, a society based on farming. It is sad how far the country has strayed from that idea. We have children and parents who think vegetables come from the grocery store on Styrofoam trays encased in plastic wrap and who are afraid of earthworms. During World War I, the government stated that it was the patriotic duty of every American to grow a War Garden to feed their families so that American farmers could send their vegetables to the troops overseas. When World War II came the government asked Americans again to grow a Victory garden to feed their families.

During these trying economic times, again people have returned to that idea of growing their own food. I believe that every person should have access to healthy, nutritious, fresh food. But vegetables are more expensive, so many families have to choose cheap processed meals filled with preservatives, additives, fat, sugars, salt, and flavor enhancers instead of vegetables and fruits. This is why community gardens are so important. They give people the ability to take control of the food they eat. For just a few dollars, a family can plant a variety of vegetables that will feed their family for months. Plus they get exercise, fresh air, and sunshine, which is good for a healthy body and mind. This community garden will also grow friendships. Gardeners love to visit and help new gardeners by sharing their knowledge and secrets of how to grow the very best.

My grandmother had a huge vegetable garden. I remember sitting on the back porch in the morning shelling peas for the noon dinner on the ranch. She said nothing beats the taste or the nutrition of a vegetable right out of the garden. That garden of my grandmother’s cultivated my love of gardening, respect for nature, and created a close bond with my grandmother who is now 104. She grew her last vegetable garden at age 96. Gardens do strengthen family bonds. Working in the garden gives families a time out of their busy scattered lives to work together as a family unit towards a goal that benefits each member. There is time to talk, play, and learn in the garden.

 These are just a few reasons why little neighborhood community gardens are so important.  This garden will have an impact by changing lives and making this little portion of Vancouver a greener and healthier place to work, play, and live.

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