Gardening for Life!

The Future of Community Gardening

Workshop participants were asked January 24, 2016 about the future of community gardening in Calgary.  Their responses to specific questions are presented below:

Why is Community Gardening important to Calgary? What difference does it make?

Skill legacy

  • Social - legacy of skill
  • Teaching
  • Growing our kids in gardening
  • Advocacy for the abilities and space to grow food
  • Education and exploration
  • Sharing knowledge / teaching
  • Combines all skill levels

Personal value

  • Support therapy
  • Therapeutic
  • Contact with nature
  • Connection to earth and each other
  • Attempt to keep balance
  • Outdoors / healthy lifestyle
  • Enjoy a challenge


  • Impact on environment (compost, reduced energy use, local, global warming)
  • Builds philanthropy / education for each other
  • Sense of belonging and responsibility
  • Learning from others / and from the land
  • Family togetherness
  • Connect food, people, and generations


  • Cross cultures and abilities (encourage those with disabilities, new people to community)
  • Spaces to facilitate group activities beyond gardening (readings, lunches, meetings)
  • Draws people together for a new outdoor activity (other than sports)
  • Exercise / builds relationships
  • Greening our community
  • Reconnections with our neighbors
  • Have fun / Meet people
  • Networking with other gardeners
  • Gathering space / social awareness
  • Bridges generations, brings youth and seniors together for common goal
  • Promotes sense of ownership from youth and builds sense of respect from youth
  • Ecology (ladybugs, environmental controls without pesticides, composting, water use / H20 conservation
  • Beautifies community
  • Getting youth involved (schools, scout, and guides)


  • Eating healthier / cheaper food
  • Providing garden space for those without
  • Growing clean food
  • Providing sustainable food
  • Providing for less fortunate
  • Subsidizing food costs
  • Having control over your own food sources
  • Producing quality food / food sustainability


If you think ahead to 2026, how would Community Gardening look? What would be different from today?


  • One garden per neighborhood
  • Each one has market and urban farm (to sell to neighbors)
  • Every community would have a garden
  • Mandate for new constructions - more compact housing
  • More communal gardening
  • More community gardens and more urban agriculture

Connect & Plan

  • All gardens will be networked/integrated/all connected.
  • Funding will be global/one bucket
  • More accommodating in legal regulations (rain water, well)
  • Developer requirement for new neighborhoods (space planning will be better)
  • A central hub / knowledge hub, easy resources / more activities / multi-use social integration
  • More city involvement/cooperation


  • Tolerance and understanding for sustainable water planning and planting in the ground vs. beds.
  • 20% of food will be produced locally
  • Greater % of produce donated to charities.


  • Community green space / identified as public space / include in city development plans
  • Indoor hydroponics / community greenhouse
  • Technology for rooftop gardens would exist
  • Useable space with sufficient sunshine


Would anything need to change within Community Gardening to ensure we achieve your vision?


  • Efforts reduced
  • Manual - on how to start (everyone does the same process-stand-water considerations, how to choose location, timeline for implementation, checkboxes & steps, contacts, and flowchart of responsibilities)


  • More food donations
  • Should focus be organic?
  • Trend toward philanthropy to offset increasing costs


  • Harnessing technology to sustain water, soil, energy
  • Incorporating crop rotation
  • More diverse crops / Greenhouses


  • Alternative growing methods (vertical, South facing wall tiered / solar power
  • Expansion of community gardens including rooftop.
  • Structural change in building codes to accommodate rooftop gardens, one garden for 30 people

Government/ Resources

  • Government needs to be on side - work with citizens for sustainable local food movement - use of resources
  • The city needs to cooperate
  • Insurance for festivals / events / easy access to insurance
  • Redirecting funding to start up/maintain garden.
  • Reduced risk / liability for gardens


Can you anticipate any challenges you think we will need to pay attention to?


  • How to harness as much as possible / education
  • Getting people to take ownership, volunteer for events
  • Creating a culture of doing more than looking after a plot.
  • Role, operation, programs, people burn-out, roles and responsibilities

Out of Garden's control:

  • Drought tolerance
  • Pollution
  • Climate mitigation
  • Soil development
  • Water shortages


  • Will community gardens be exempt from metered water cost?
  • How will composting be affected by city green bins?
  • Should community gardens be more closely aligned (ie. Have a mandate, more uniformity, rental fees, etc.)
  • CHS could represent community gardens for funding


  • City: adherence to rules and they need to have a process in place.
  • Land acquisition through the City.
  • Funding from the city - part of the annual budget (challenge).
  • Timeline - how long should it take to establish.


What opportunities do you think we will need to pay attention to?


  • Engagement of volunteers
  • Larger base of educated gardeners
  • Connection of leaders in gardens


  • Higher density buildings / roof-top gardens; into planning
  • Heat recovery systems / geothermal / everyone has access to it for growing and its an accepted norm
  • Warmth; extend season
  • Expanded composting
  • Harnessing greenhouse gasses for agriculture


  • Free education / seminars
  • Information passed around / accessible


  • Centralized bank of resources, funds, grants, capitalize on grow Calgary.
  • Campaign - aim for 5% for community gardens.
  • Funding - need to tap into sources for environmental, oil patch funding


What should we be celebrating at our 15th Anniversary about Community Gardening?

This list seems more "How should we be celebrating?", but all great ideas.

At Individual Gardens

  • Small event - challenge to community gardens to do and share success that becomes list of why community gardens thrive in Calgary.
  • Fall harvest
  • Long table meal
  • Art, words, photos
  • Engage with neighborhood, schools nearby to your garden (or day camps)
  • BBQ / harvest festival at a community garden (potluck using homegrown food)
  • Music in gardens / Art in garden
  • Adopt a garden
  • Event over a weekend or theme for the season
  • Pictures of plots / garden, before and after
  • Book or portfolio of community gardens 2016
  • Compost party for education
  • Diversity of gardens and people
  • Children's art contest
  • Celebrate Good Times!
  • Kids project - scavenger hunt
  • Garden tours tastings (vegetable garden)
  • Beekeepers
  • Potluck Dinner - each garden comes up with one signature dish
  • Donate some harvest to Foodbank / Mustard seed

Above plus these suggestions for Connecting Gardens

  • Medium event - Tea & talks, community hall in each quadrant, garlic festival, children's activities, teen activities
  • Seed bank program / trade seeds
  • Recognition of dedicated persons
  • Honor former gardening "heroes" (ie. Gardening Hall of Fame)
  • Recipe book for Anniversary based on successful food in Calgary
  • Book on successful stories "Celebration Book" or calendar
  • Breakfast TV / photographers / highlight some gardens / can be YouTube videos
  • Reach out to other Calgary garden/food groups (Grow Calgary, Permaculture, show food)
  • Tours of gardens or progressive garden tour
  • Facebook invite / Fair festival
  • Workshop series at different gardens for learning
  • Locally made drinks (beer, wine, cider)
  • Website and Facebook (create a gallery of gardens)
  • ABC adoption
  • Sharing "how to" knowledge across gardens
  • Tomato festival / fair / cherry tomato booth / "Cherry"ty festival
  • Growth / how much more it will grow! / How it's already grown
  • Gather financial information / secure stable funding
  • Some educational component

Above plus these suggestions for the City

  • Big event - city wide - big fair (BMO and/or beer hall) - $10,000 grant
  • Vegetable show / contest (rarest vegetable, heirloom, ugly vegetable)
  • Garden tour / bus / bike tour N.W., S.W., S.E., N.E. / Map tour, sell maps of tour "App"??
  • Planting trees or some woody edibles - involve schools?
  • Doors open YYC (Sept.)
  • Jane's Walks (May)
  • Commission a public sculpture / art