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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community gardening practices, motivations, experiences, perceived health effects and policy Bwika, Rehema Ahmed


For the purposes of this study, a community garden was defined as an urban space that is divided into plots and assigned to individuals or households, who share in communal responsibilities and decision-making. A literature review found that little research exists regarding community gardening, particularly in relation to policy but also to some aspects of health. There were also similarities in the research between community gardening, gardening in general, and social and therapeutic horticulture (STH). The aims of this study were to explore the motivations, experiences and practices of community gardeners and garden coordinators within the City of Vancouver, and become familiar with key characteristics of community gardens; to investigate any health effects perceived in relation to community gardening; and to examine the role of policy in shaping community gardening in Metro Vancouver and other municipalities. Using a listing of community gardens provided by the City of Vancouver, garden coordinators were contacted and requested to participate in the study by completing a brief survey on phone or electronically, and by forwarding a request for participation to their gardeners. Besides email, gardeners were also recruited at garden events, and were thereafter interviewed on phone for approximately an hour. For emotional and social well-being, as well as nutrition, community gardening was perceived to be highly beneficial. For mental abilities, physical fitness and financial status it was found to have little to no substantial benefit or harm, given that, for the latter two, most community gardeners were regularly involved in more rigorous physical activity, and were also socioeconomically secure. Most gardeners were also less than 50 years of age, female, Caucasian, highly educated and high income earners, and most gardens were located in middle income neighborhoods, with an average of 64 plots, a mean area of half a city block, and a mean age of 10 years. Most Metro Vancouver municipalities had at least one community garden, but no policies in place that were exclusive to community gardening.

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