A Glasgow University study on community gardens in the city, including three Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG) members, has outlined their positive effect on individuals and communities.
The report concluded that community gardening promotes community empowerment and “offers a learning environment that goes beyond the skills associated with horticulture to include individual health, self and community wellbeing and democratic citizenship.”
The therapeutic potential of gardening is acknowledged, with some people reporting mental and physical health benefits. One anonymous volunteer is quoted as saying: “I decided instead of sitting in the house all day, the garden would get me out and about. It gives me something to do… Me being epileptic as well, it [the garden] helps bring down my stress levels with having something on my mind […] I was in a bad way, drugs and stuff – working the gardens has saved my life”.
Other participants acquired knowledge and skills that build self-confidence and encourage team working. The report found that the community gardens provide important employment and training opportunities in Glasgow and have “considerable potential to be expanded, given the right policy support.”
The study also found evidence of gardens increasing social inclusion and community cohesion while “promoting a positive recognition and celebration of different cultures”, with one sessional worker commenting: “I have eight people in my taskforce. Most don’t have English as a first language. There is Roma, Czech Republic […] I also have someone from Ghana, someone from Gambia, someone from Eritrea.[…] When we had young refugees and asylum seekers last week it was fascinating the things they were telling us about wild garlic, and making soup, and how they would use various herbs in their culture.”
The report also mentions that FCFCG provides free advice on lease issues to community gardening groups – this is actually provided by the Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS).