Cape Cod and the Islands boast a number of thriving and popular community gardens.
In these botanical oases, gardeners tend to their plots beside one another, learning from fellow gardeners and sharing the joy of growing their own produce.
Community gardens have had a long history in the United States and have waxed and waned over the years in response to economic downturns, global events, and other trends. The Smithsonian’s history of community gardens reports that the first community gardens began on vacant lots in response to the economic downturn of the 1890’s. This “Potato-Patch” movement helped people grow food that they needed, and to build community. Following the 1890 surge of gardens, more community gardens popped up with school gardens and then with wartime victory gardens during the First World War and 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
The Great Depression spurred thrift gardens in the 1930’s, meeting the immediate need for food in communities. The Second World War also had a victory garden effort, though slightly less robust than the effort during the First World War. The increase in suburban growth in the 1950’s saw a shift away from community plots, with gardeners seeking the privacy of their own backyards. The interest in collective garden endeavors was rekindled in the late 1960’s and 1970’s with the goals of neighborhood revitalization and environmental stewardship. This interest has continued, with a spike during the recession of 2009.
Just like in years past, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a renewed interest in gardening. An article by the Columbia School of Public Health speculates that beyond the value of fresh produce, community gardening has fostered connection, support, and socialization in an otherwise isolating time. I suspect there’s something about getting your hands in the soil and working that can sooth the mind, giving gardeners purpose in such a challenging time. Some community gardens also work to support local food pantries, keeping them stocked with fresh, healthy, vegetables in a year when hunger and food insecurity is on the rise on Cape Cod and beyond.
The gardens are a great way to grow food for your family and friends if you don’t have the land at home, or if you are renting. Most gardens are in-ground raised beds, and many offer accessible raised beds for gardeners who need them. They also generally provide shared infrastructure like water, compost, and sometimes even tilling services or shared tools. Some community gardens also offer greenhouse space for rent to get seedling started.
Community gardens across Cape Cod and the Islands are bustling spots this year, most are full of waiting lists already started for plots in 2022. Gardeners enjoy the peace of the gardens, as well as the camaraderie and wisdom provided by other plot holders. The gardens are a supportive environment where gardeners can learn from one another, share in successes, and commiserate in failures. In addition to growing local food and preserving green spaces, among the colorful flowers and bounty of vegetables, these gardens are cultivating community as well.
Some of the Cape Cod community gardens include:
- Community Greenhouse, Martha’s Vineyard
- Nantucket Community Garden, Nantucket
- Harwich Community Garden
- Meetinghouse Farm, West Barnstable
- Marina F. Andrews Community Garden, Falmouth
- Taylor-Bray Farm, Yarmouth
- Wellfleet Community Garden
- B-Street Garden, Provincetown
- Mashpee Community Garden, Mashpee
- Roberti Farm Community Garden, Sandwich
- Brewster Conservation Trust’s Community Garden, Brewster
- Community Children’s Garden, Truro
- Chatham Community Garden, Chatham
- Native Earth Teaching Farm, Chilmark
- The FARM Institute, Edgartown
- Shoop Community Garden, South Dennis
- Seaview Park Garden, Dennis
- Fisk Garden, Dennis