Growing Community By Growing Food: A Comparative Study Of Two Community Gardens In North Texas
Community Gardens are a burgeoning trend in the U.S., blooming in many different cities and for different reasons including social activism, sustainability, health, education, ecology, and community. Their popularity also reflects a current trend where people are more attentive to their relationship with food and concerned about where it comes from. This thesis examines two community gardens in North Texas, University of Texas at Arlington Community Garden in Arlington and Deep Ellum Urban Garden in Dallas. Despite community gardens' popularity, no studies on community gardens have been done in Texas. However, North Texas is home to the 4th largest metropolitan area and its demographics mirror the U.S. making this an excellent area to study community gardens. By examining these two gardens, this ethnographic research compares the history, structure, leadership, and the reasons why gardeners participate in these gardens to determine how and why people in North Texas utilize these gardens. Through the lens of urban anthropology, these two gardens also offer a chance to examine how it is difficult to forge community in urban settings by looking at two different methods of management: top-down and grassroots; and in two different sites: the city and the suburbs, all within the same area and culture of North Texas. This project is ethnographic through participation and observation, comparative, although both gardens are in North Texas, and participatory through the author's work in her garden plot and learning how to garden. At both gardens, utilizing the garden to grow and foster community among the gardeners is of upmost importance. However, different methods of management can affect how gardeners participate in and view each garden and thus the community in the garden. This research reveals that in order for the garden to achieve their goal of being a successful community-building venture, it is the gardeners' participation and having a personal stake in the garden which is vital to the garden's ability to grow and foster community. Thus, while grassroots management can create a successful community garden because the gardeners are involved from start to finish, top-down management can also work as long as there is active participation from the gardeners.