Where neighbourhood counter-powers put down roots
By José Luis Fernández Casadevante Kois, Nerea Morán and Nuria del Viso
This sense of community belonging that characterizes the urban gardens is underlined by a gardener from Madrid, an unemployed architect: ‘It’s not a question of each person having their own plot, or each person managing, working and harvesting a separate, fenced-off area. That’s something people find very unsettling – they’re surprised that you’d go and put in the work without knowing what you’re going to get out of it’.
Because what is grown is not for commercial purposes, the gardens promote a sort of gift economy, where what each person contributes and what they receive is not quantified.
Another gardener from the same garden explains it like this: ‘This spade is not mine, neither is this plant. Because all of it is everyone’s, I have more of a sense of belonging. It feels more important to me, I have to look after it and defend it more than if it was mine or someone else’s. It’s everyone’s space and no-one’s space – a common good that we can all enjoy but that doesn’t belong to us’. For another gardener, ‘Being a community means working more on the basis of questions than answers. Things get decided through consultation, nobody imposes their views’.
For a gardener in one of Madrid’s oldest gardens , Adelfas, the community garden is ‘a place where we can go back to what a neighbourhood used to be, talk to the neighbours in a space that’s not commercial or defined by consumerism’. Another adds: ‘It’s a place where we do things collectively and connect with the earth, a place to be with people who have something in common, a part of the neighbourhood that’s really ours, unlike the park that’s cold and impersonal’.