Community Food : “Community Gardens & other Shared Food Resources. Community resources with a focus on providing the means for local people to gain access to nutritious foods. These categories are most typically, but not always, community gardens. These projects involve residents growing their own portion of food.”
Community Food Spotlight: Vegetable Mining Operation Community Garden
By Hannah Nelson.
“If you can’t afford to buy it, you can most likely afford to grow it.”-Giles Larsen
My first adventure into the varied categories plotted on the Utah Resilience Map began at the Vegetable Mining Operation Community Garden in West Valley. This community garden is located along a busy residential street, in the northeast corner of Hillsdale Park. The Vegetable Mining Operation Community Garden, and other community gardens like it, result from counties reaching out to programs such as Parks for Produce. Parks for Produce is a program associated with Wasatch Community Gardens. This program partners with counties to turn their parklands into a resource that provides more than open green spaces, but also food for people within the community. Giles Larsen the manager of Parks for Produce agreed to meet me for a chat, so I could learn more about this type of community garden.
Giles has been working with Wasatch Community Garden for about seven years, but that was not the beginning of his journey into infrastructure resistance work. One of his first experiences dealing with food resources and its distribution was in his involvement in Food not Bombs. This group would cook food, that would other wise go to waste, and feed the homeless. Often times nutritious food is not affordable for low income families. Community gardens opened through Parks and Produce help bridge the gap between people and their food. From Giles’s perspective community gardens provide a place for people to not only grow healthful foods but to reconnect with cycles of nature, specifically in their local area. It is a way to distance the community from an imposed societal structure that works against the environment for resources, and teach people to work with what they have locally.
“Food is culture,” Giles explained in response to some of the struggles community gardens face. Natural, healthy living is a trend associated with middle class, that can sometimes be a hindrance to whom feels comfortable or motivated to join a community garden. Wasatch Community Gardens has many resources to help mitigate the anxieties of a novice gardener. They host seed parties in West Valley and Magna, to help get gardeners get started by providing seeds and other potting material. There are also workshops hosted throughout the year, some are free, while others are responsibly priced, as well as offered with scholarship opportunities.
I asked Giles what he thought the benefits of joining a community garden are. There are all the obvious answers to this question, access to food, knowledge, etc… But what Giles seemed more smitten by was the atmosphere and social connections this kind of environment can bring to a community. He described how euphoric it is to see everyone come together for a potluck saying, “You just can’t force it”. Gardens, such as the Vegetable Mining Operation Community Garden, bring people together to learn and grow in ways that are not always offered in the mainstream of our society today.
Wasatch Community Gardens is involved in much more than just Parks for Produce, but has a variety of projects and gardens up and running to contribute to community welfare and livelihood. One of which is the Green Team Farm, a program that works with homeless women, providing practical farming skills and knowledge over a ten month period. I will be speaking with the farm director of the Green Team Farm for the next Utah Resilience Map blog post. ⚘
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