My second visit was to the Berkeley Community Garden, conveniently located in the South End of Boston, and completely open to the public. This easy access is what prompted me to choose this organization to learn more about– I found that a lot of the places I was interested in were a little harder to access. I didn’t realize how community gardens (and similar organizations) tend to be private in cities, so I was happy to be able to visit on such short notice.
Going into my visit, I knew there were 140 farmers in the garden, so my expectations were pretty high. I have to say even with these expectations, I was left impressed. The garden is large and varied, with different plots looking extremely different and showing varying degrees of success. There is access to compost, water basins, pathways, and I assumed some education involved in the gardening process. Even as I was there, I saw two plot owners discussing their carrot growth. That was especially cool for me to see, because I enjoyed seeing the engagement, community, and mutual education that was occurring– I took some major themes of local/sustainable produce from that interaction.
Just by hanging around, I entered several different conversations (and witnessed some in languages I did not recognize), with gardeners and other people looking to take a stroll. I learned a bit about the history– there’s somewhere around 140-150 plots, first cultivated in the 1970’s range. Vacancies, which there aren’t too many of, are filled by lottery once a year. Different techniques are used (widely ranging), and I could see for myself that this produced varying degrees of success.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the Garden. It’s a cool place in a location where I would not expect to see a garden, which made walking around and conversing with people a little more rewarding. While the resources provided are not as great (no formal education, no group tools, etc), there are other things in place to help gardeners succeed– like a water supply and tips/advice from fellow gardeners. This allows them to create a neighborhood green space that is both rewarding for the gardeners themselves and the community, and contributes to the local food system minutely in some fresh produce, but on a much larger scale in community engagement and education on agriculture.