Many European cities have the tendency to work and produce from lands which have little to do with agricultural land. In Italian these are often known as “War gardens”, other countries use the expression “community gardens”. It is interesting to discover how more and more municipalities are encouraging this form of production. In Brussels, a map indicates 651 community gardens for the Brussels region (the capital of Belgium is administratively speaking a region), or 1175 if we were to include those in the Wallonia region. The numbers are not small, and they touch on agricultural realities which have acquired a certain type of visibility, especially on a local level. It is interesting that there are community gardens in the city-centre, as well as in the Pentagon (historical part of the town).
Where can one start a community garden? The answer is easier than what one may think. To start a patch one can look for either a flat roof (with easy access) especially those owned by public entities (an example is the royal library), or land owned by public or semi-public entities, along the sides of the road, or large (mainly unused) pavements, perhaps equipped with appropriate fences. Who can provide more information? The Brussels Institute for Management of the Environment (a regional body) can.
Community gardens are based on a few simple principles: the land is given to a group of people to manage, using a communal format. People meet up, they exchange ideas, make decisions, and work together. This is all based on a highly natural form of agriculture, that covers soil almost permanently (permaculture). So begin to flourish these gardens, which produce food throughout the year, such as tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, beans, carrots, beetroot, artichoke, fennel and broccoli. This all happens in the most natural way possible. Those who do work in these gardens will confirm that aside from healthy eating this helps lead a more relaxing and cheerful life, building both formal and informal connections.
All this is happening in a noisy, congested and polluted environment. Modern society does not educate towards better solidarity and cooperation, however communal gardens are teaching us to live together… by living together.