Excerpts from George McKay´s Radical Gardening

Summary of the reading:

The reading starts by looking at the 1970s, a time of property crash, the bankruptcy of the early 1970s financial crisis in New York, which lead to a multitude of unoccupied spaces in the city. It gave way to a spatial movement; people and local communities claimed land that wasn´t theirs, and transformed them into social spaces like gardens and parks, fed up with the government’s inability to act. These spaces were important in creating community action, self organisation, and autonomy. It was an environmental reclamation of space for both social and cultural aspects: “Community gardening meant people taking direct action to transform their environments”. Through this, we see the importance of space and community and the impact it has on urban environments. The reading brings up Guerrilla Gardening, which is essentially an “illicit cultivation of someone elses´s land”, but takes place mostly in urban environments.

Reading Questions:

1. What importance do you feel community gardens play in an urban context?  What do you think they symbolize and what role do they play in the community?

I think community gardens play a great importance in an urban context. They deal not only with the direct issue of food production, but in addition, addressing social issues, environmental issues, recreational, etc. In the reading, Karen Schmelzkopf, was quoted:  “Community gardens provide therapeutic sites of nature and safe options for residents in high-risk communities, including places for children to play and learn, and some judges sentence juvenile offenders to work in the gardens rather than fines or spending time in jail. there are countless examples of poor gardeners being empowered by learning … “greenlining” skills. Further, the social capital derived from the gardens is much celebrated.. Community gardens are one of our most participatory local civic institutions… There has been wide recognition of the worth of the “sweat equity” labour of the volunteer gardeners. Finally, there are the benefits of open space and nature.”Also, In the 2008 report The True Value of Community Farms and Gardens “found that people identified benefits from their activity in a group of area: healthy eating, and excercise; social interactions and inclusions; environmental awareness; education and skill developmet; and natural therapy.” Community gardens bring communities together in multiple aspects, not just with food. It strengthens communication, provides a safer environment, provides education and awareness about food, it encourages participation and creativity, and creates a community space.

2. Do you think community gardening or guerrilla gardening is a revolutionary act? A stage in a revolutionary act?  If so, how so, if not, why not?

I wouldnt necessarily call community gardering a revolutionalry act. Maybe in our generation, since our exposure to gardens and farm-grown food are so far removed from our notions of where food comes from, i would maybe call it a generational revolutionary act: going against the norm of today and commercial grown food.  But I think, rather, that community gardening is a stage in a revolutionary act. I think more and more, we are realizing that the commercial food system that we have in place here in the United States is further and further away from the ideal, and the way counteract, is it to take things into our own hands.

Some More Questions:

  • Richard Reynolds writes that guerilla gardening is “illicit cultivation of someone elses´s land”. Do you agree with guerilla gardening? Is it necessary? Why or why not?