New research on community gardens by Esther Veen in The Netherlands has found that while we’ve assumed that community gardens will increase social cohesion, they don’t in fact lead to better relationships between local residents.
Veen’s research found that community gardens allow local residents to become acquainted more easily, and even ask each other for help, but they don’t foster contacts or friendships outside the community garden environment. Even though the participants chatted to each other, their community garden interactions did not break through the more usual way that social relationships form, such as socio-economic background.
Veen also found that community gardeners who grew edibles were not motivated by wanting to create an alternative food network, such as an urban farming model. People joined community gardens simply because they liked the act of gardening, not because they opposed the conventional food supply system.
Veen’s research covered 7 community gardens in Almere, Amsterdam, Assen, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam and Zutphen where she conducted interviews and surveys, and also participated in some of the community garden activities herself.
More details at Wageningen University