Branching Out: Examining the Possibilities and Challenges of Community Garden Expansion
Krajewski, Maegan Rae
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The North Central Community Gardens (NCCG) – the urban agriculture program of the North Central Community Association (NCCA) in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada – introduced the Branch Out Project (BOP) in the summer of 2020. After several years of conversations with community members and discussions among NCCA staff, BOP was designed as a participatory action research project that would promote the expansion of the NCCG into residents’ yards and schoolgrounds as well as facilitate research on the practical and theoretical implications of this initiative. Amidst the many regulations, upheavals to local and global economies, and disruptions of social and cultural lives brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, BOP resulted in the construction of eight new gardens: six in residents’ yards and two on schoolgrounds. Findings from an initial interest survey of NCCG participants (N=21) are presented here, in addition to conclusions from post-season interviews with BOP participants (N=8). By analyzing the survey and interview findings, I aimed to address the question: what are the opportunities for, possibilities of, and challenges to the expansion of community gardening in urban spaces under neoliberal capitalism? Four key themes emerge from this investigation: consumption, community, capacity, and control. Applying the extended case method to BOP, I situate these themes within the food justice and food sovereignty literature to understand community garden expansion as a counter-neoliberal, anti-capitalist response to crisis. I argue that BOP, and similar initiatives, have the potential to provide a radical grassroots alternative food system, but that challenges of land access, funding, and power remain.