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oh, the mortifying moment that you learn that your children believe all carrots are created baby-sized. Or, when you notice your child is visibly repelled by the “weird lunch” of the student sitting next to her. You think to yourself, “I’m a conscientious parent, how did this happen?”We have come a long way from the frozen and canned diets of the past, but in an urban environment, our kids are usually removed from the production of their foods. We feed our kids organic foods, whole foods, we teach them to eat their veggies from the beginning, but there are so many benefits to working with your kids to grow even a part of what goes on your table. When you join a community garden, even if you have a back yard of your own, all the benefits of growing your own food and involving your kids multiply exponentially. Becoming part of a community garden is a great way for people who don’t have access to their own land to grow their own food, but the positive effects of community gardening go so far beyond that. Kids, especially, can learn and grow from the experience in many different ways. Kids love learning from doing. What may be a dry lecture on farming in school can become a fascinating learning exercise when you can get your hands dirty and watch something grow. Patience and the science of plant biology both come to your child naturally when they are involved in the process of growing things. Success and failure are all part of gardening, and figuring out why the kale went gangbusters but the tomatoes never ripened teaches both kids and adults to learn from experience, and to study and experiment to produce optimal results. One key benefit to gardening within a community is the exchange of information between gardeners from different cultures, generations, and levels of experience. Most gardeners love talking, teaching what they know, and commiserating on the tough aspects of trial and error in a garden; and kids love asking questions. Different cultures can mingle in a garden and kids can see the types of things that other people are growing. It opens up their eyes to the world of food beyond what they are used to, and may even expand their palate. Even if growing vegetables isn’t your thing, there are many other foodproducing cooperative projects all over the Lower Mainland, including a community orchard and berry patch near Trout Lake, a garden of indigenous edible plants near Joyce SkyTrain, and a permaculture food forest growing in North Vancouver. In a community garden, particularly on “work party” days, families can work with other families and individuals for the common upkeep of the garden, and this shows young people how fun and rewarding it is to work together as a team. This is a great way to meet, connect, and engage with your neighbours, and the resulting communication strengthens the community as a whole. Community gardens turn negative spaces into positive spaces, reducing crime, improving the urban ecosystem by filtering rainwater, increasing oxygen and green space, and this positive effect is not limited to urban community gardens. More and more, people in traditionally agricultural areas that are being developed are joining up to garden with other people in order to socialize, learn and take advantage of group tools, materials and labour. Surrey is a good example of a city that was very agricultural but is now becoming increasingly urbanized, and forward-thinking city planners are including lots of space for community-minded gardeners of the future in their designs. “We are seeing a slow but steady increase in demand for community gardens,” says Owen Croy, Surrey’s Manager of Parks. “We already have four gardens on city parkland and outside the Surrey city core, we have plans for more. We are also very open to people getting together and proposing additional garden space.” So even if you live outside the city, or even if you have a back yard of your own, becoming active in a community garden can enhance the happiness and wellbeing of your whole family, while making your community stronger and a more friendly, healthy place to live. And if there isn’t a community garden near you, be a hero and start one! Your kids and future generations will thank you.