Dartmouth College Hanover, New Hampshire, United States
Urban gardens have a history of recurrence during times of socio-ecological stress, emerging frequently and replicated globally in an apparent response to acute food insecurities. While some gardens, like the Victory Gardens of WWI and II quickly disappear following economic recovery, others like allotment gardens in Germany remain a persistent memory, becoming embedded into the socio-political tapestry of a city. Here, I discuss ecological work conducted in urban garden community gardens, where communities grow communities both human and non-human. I discuss the process and challenges presented while we engage with community gardeners from diverse backgrounds to co-develop questions, assess results, and propose future directions. I present an example of our new initiative with the Trustees, the first US and largest Massachusetts land conservation nonprofit organization. I will present how the Trustees came to manage some of the oldest remaining community gardens in the nation, their relationship with gardeners, and Dartmouth researchers. Together we ask questions regarding how 8 Boston neighborhoods: Dorchester, East Boston, the Fenway, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and the South End, differ in constructions of community by analyzing demographics and changes in crop diversity and abundance across sites and seasons.
Community gardens under management by the Trustees include 1 of the 2 only remaining Victory gardens in the US, which reached a peak of 20 million during WWI/II. Gardens have high land insecurities, frequently disappearing shortly after established. Some of these losses were adjudicated through interventions by the Trustees for Boston community gardens. Co-management by Trustees staff and community gardener representatives is key for the success and continued operation of gardens. Gardens under the Trustees represent great demographic as well as crop and cultivar diversity. Co-development of research requires extensive outreach and willingness on behalf of researchers, gardeners, and Trustees staff to adapt. We find that each garden community has a strong impact on their ecological communities, with distinct species assemblages curated by each of the sampled Boston neighborhoods. Differences in inter and intra-garden crop diversity have implications for food security, sovereignty, as well as for large-scale landscape connectivity.