Church Community Gardens: Case Studies from Durham, NC
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Studies have shown that community gardens address food insecurity, ecological concerns, and provide benefits to individuals and the community as a whole. Churches have become common sites for community gardens, yet few studies have investigated the particularity of church community gardens. I conducted qualitative case studies of five church community gardens in Durham, North Carolina. I explored why and how the gardens started and maintained the gardens and what influence the gardens have on their communities. I gathered data from interviews, observations, and material culture and analyzed the data using NVivo 9. I identified six major motivations for church community gardens: community-building, ministry to neighbors, practicality (i.e. availability of land), creation care, beautification, and justice (i.e. food justice, alternative economy). The five gardens ranged from one to three years old. Most volunteers were church members; volunteer groups also played a vital role. All five gardens were organic. Most gardens developed programs around the actual work of gardening, including summer camps, workshops, and community events. Funding, in-kind support, and expert advice came from a variety of community organizations, including other gardens, other churches, NGOs, local businesses, and grant-making agencies. The biggest challenge was attracting volunteers. Despite a common challenge of involving neighbors in gardening, churches reported that gardens were successful in building community. The church gardens also provided food to people, although the number of beneficiaries and quantity was not quantified. Environmental and nutritional education occurred as a result of the garden. Environmental remediation and beautification was also reported. I noted that leaders and other participants had motivations and reflections on the theological significance of gardening beyond what they revealed as their initial motivations. These included a connection to Christian theology and scripture, connection to land, and economic implications. By undertaking this exploratory case study of five church community gardens, I hoped to have provided a basic understanding of their motivations, logistics, and influence so that secular workers in environmental and social justice fields can build their awareness of Christian congregations who are participating in sustainable urban agriculture.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
Subject"church community garden" "Christian creation care" "local agriculture" "community garden" "Durham, North Carolina"
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