Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
My personal and academic journey with community gardening began in the spring of 1997, when I joined my ﬁrst community garden and became involved in a local community group called the Community Gardening Network of Waterloo Region. It was during a graduate course that I ﬁrst heard about community gardens and other community food projects. I had not been aware of the signiﬁcant participation of citizens, like me, in such projects. In the classroom, we had discussed community food projects, like community gardens, as alternative settings in the context of broader social change considerations. Due in part to this exposure and to my own early experiences with community gardening, I was increasingly coming to believe that community gardens presented important opportunities for community development. But I wondered how others who were locally involved perceived their activities, and this was the research question that guided my work. To answer this question I decided that I wanted to interview local community gardeners and I chose to use a narrative approach. I found more than a methodological approach in narrative, as I also discovered a powerful theoretical framework within which I could make sense of my emergent thesis focus. Consistent with a narrative approach to method, I used an open ended unstructured interview guide which I believe gave participants the freedom to narrate their experiences in ways which were meaningful to them. I ﬂamed participants’ stories as part of the evolution of a community story, and in this way, narrative theory helped me to make sense of the data. My interpretation positions community gardening and the work of the Network in a process of social change directed towards creating sustainable communities, and, as such, provides an example of how stories can be used to challenge the status quo. My ﬁndings suggest that local community gardening could serve as a powerful metaphor, providing a vision for building community, caring for the environment, and meeting basic human needs at broader societal levels. I conclude with personal reﬂection on the value of my thesis experience, and suggestions for fruitful directions with respect to further research and action.
O'Reilly, Janet Ann, "Community gardeners: Planting the seeds of a sustainable future" (1999). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 684.