As president of our Rose Roots Community Garden, I have been remiss in sharing with you my vision, goals and focus for our community in alignment with our garden motto “Gardeners Creating Community” and our mission to create an inclusive community growing local organic foods, supporting pollinators, and bringing many generations up appreciating, respecting, and nurturing nature.
First, though, I’d like to share some background on how I developed these ideas over time. As a new Rose Roots gardener, these were some of my experiences:
My sons were raised eating dirt in the garden, gaining independence and confidence, developing a diverse gut biota, and learning how food can be grown supporting healthy soils and a healthy environment. The garden gave us (and still does) one of our most peaceful outlets as a family.
I’ve met incredibly inspiring, inclusive and thoughtful people who are doing wonderful work towards growing community with a focus on inclusivity and equality and a passion for caring for Mother Nature.
I’ve gardened now with three generations and found our garden is a great place to spend peaceful time together and integrate multiple generations with local community.
Over time, I've seen the challenges of any young non-profit community group play out.
I've heard marginalizing comments about young people, other leaders, our founders, new gardeners, gardeners with big ideas, families who don’t “do enough” and members who “don’t have follow through”.
I’ve seen leaders chased out, I’ve seen mediation required between gardeners, I’ve seen entire groups of gardeners aim to separate and start their own garden due to lack of trust, I’ve seen whole leadership teams quit and I’ve seen notices come to gardeners that the garden will be dissolved if “someone else doesn’t step up”.
I’ve seen individual gardeners called out on social media and in meetings for perceived infractions
I’ve seen age-ism towards all ages, and classism with an Us and Them mentality.
I’ve seen my neighbors quit because they "can’t handle the drama”.
I’ve seen more and more signs go up telling gardeners the Do’s and Don’ts and signs torn down in sign wars
I’ve seen pumpkins stolen from plots every few years and, gardener’s vegetables vandalized.
I’ve seen turf wars, exclusive behavior and private decisions made behind seemingly closed doors.
Forever A New Gardener
While I may have misperceived some of these interactions, I felt like a “new” gardener for many years. I didn’t really understand where to get information or updates. I didn’t understand garden processes or know how to seek out resources to become a better gardener. I didn’t know how to integrate into the community. That may have been partially my fault. Having undergone 6 major surgeries in my first years gardening resulting in major physical limitations for some years, and having two small boys running me ragged, I may have missed a few monthly newsletters in my rammed Inbox. I can see how young families struggle to read anything that comes at them (you know who you are and I get you! If you can’t find it in your inbox, check out our website or Kiosk!)
You’re Not Alone
If I have witnessed and experienced all of these things, I’m guessing some of you may have too. And for those of you who have kept your garden experiences to yourself, I’d like you to know- You’re Not Alone (note: please share your experiences and ideas for improvement at our Feedback button at the bottom of each page on our website at www.roserootsgarden.org). Having talked with garden members across the Front Range, I’ve learned many of these issues are common in community gardens, and communities in general, but they have been exacerbated by the stressors of the pandemic and many have had to re-examine what community gardening means to them, what they get out of it, and what they want to give back.
People are Mostly Good
I still believe most people are mostly good, altruistic, considerate and thoughtful and no one is perfect (and no one is meant to be) so we have to learn to offer grace to ourselves and others. I believe community gardening can be the place of healing for individuals and community that has become so polarized. In community gardens, people can be together, find commonalities, respect and appreciate their differences, value their shared goals, and feel gratified knowing they are helping their community and the Earth. In the garden, people can learn from each other and can learn to feel love and respect for each other despite their different approaches to life.