I had the pleasure, last September, to sit down with Leni Rautiainen and Grace Glass, two of the dedicated volunteers who have given birth to the garden. They talked about how the garden came to be and how the activities it has generated foreshadow the kind of cultural shift that is being promoted by the local food movement. Woven into the plan for the garden since its inception, was the idea that it had to become a strong connector between groups and individuals. "We wanted to make connections and keep these connections, not only within our own community but within the broader community, including our Council, and give people an opportunities to get involved either directly or indirectly through support." To give shape to this vision, the group decided that the garden would be divided into two sections, one where the volunteers gardened collectively to grow food for Millbrook FoodShare members and one where local families and individuals could secure plots and grow their own food. Seeking to build inclusion was a strong principle that guided the vision of the garden committee. It continues to be embedded in the philosophy of the garden. As Grace points out,"nobody is turned away. It's for everybody and I think we did try to make this very apparent, that the place belongs to the community and that everyone is welcomed." In the process, the garden has become a lively stage for community building.
Every year, the garden is growing new roots and new shoots. There is now a fruit orchard along the garden, cooking programs in the old school, a farmers' market on the parking lot and most recently a gorgeous labyrinth has been established right beside the garden. This diversity of initiatives seeks to broaden the appeal of the garden and to grow more connections within the Village of Millbrook.
In a society where, too often, community seems to be increasingly removed from the fabric of our daily lives, projects, which cultivate community, are precious. They enable us to grow roots and experience a strong sense of belonging. Food-related activities seem to be particularly well suited to promote this kind of cultural shift, away from social isolation and loneliness and twoards meaningful face-to-face connections.
Are there food-related activities in your community, which, like the Millbrook Community Garden, builds strong connections among people of all walks of life? Can you tell us about how they came to be and what makes them such strong community-building initiatives?