UBC Undergraduate Research

Diversity of Food Plants in UBC’s Community Gardens Ng, Pauline; Pinnell, Lynn; Yan, Ning; Yaoutsis, Athena


With climate change causing massive shifts in the availability of arable land, sustainability organizations worldwide are looking towards agricultural biodiversity as an important facet of food system sustainability. Our study investigated the status of community agriculture at UBC with the aim of developing a baseline understanding of campus biodiversity, which can then be used to advise the UBC Botanical Garden’s efforts in promoting biodiversity and developing a community garden strategy. Using Community-Based Action Research principles, we surveyed 27 community gardeners and interviewed 6 community garden managers to document the diversity of food plants in community gardens, investigate contributing factors to biodiversity, and to develop a brief profile of the goals and needs of each community garden. From survey results, we found that out of the 46 food plants presented to participants, 42 are present on campus. An additional 19 varieties of food plants were listed by participants, bringing the campus total to 61 varieties. Of these 61 varieties, 82 different cultivars were named. From interview results, we found that there is a large diversity of community gardens at UBC. Gardens differed not only in size, but in their administration and organization, which affected their needs. For example, student gardens tended to need funding while institutional gardens experienced issues with administration. We also noted that the diversity of food plants grown on campus may be affected by the academic calendar at UBC. Gardeners show a strong preference towards planting fall and spring food plants, which are the main academic seasons. Additionally, many students are away during the summer months, which may contribute to decreased food plant diversity and participation in some gardens. We found that the primary motivator for both gardeners and gardens was social interaction. Community gardens on campus strive to host social events as community hubs while gardeners prioritize enjoying themselves in the garden over food production. The preference for social interactions in community gardening (especially for agricultural knowledge acquisition) serves as a favourable delivery point for the promotion of agricultural biodiversity in community gardens. Through our findings, we have concluded that the UBC Botanical Gardens can best support the community gardens on campus by providing workshops and social events that will increase agriculture knowledge and in turn, boost food plant diversity on campus. These workshops will aid community gardens in providing social events for their gardening and facilitate a way for individuals from different community gardens to socialize and share gardening knowledge. In addition, we recommend that UBC Botanical Gardens establish a platform accessible by all community gardens to share and promote gardening knowledge, resources and social events. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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