Exploring the Complexity of Community Gardens: A North Bay, Ontario Case Study

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Ruggles, Ellie
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University of Guelph

While community gardens are often common feature in cities across North America, academic and public discourses on their conceptualizations remains ambiguous (Guitart, Pickering & Bryne 2012). Some critical research on community gardens examines the academic consequences of conceptual ambiguity, but there is little focus on the practical implications. The purpose of this research is to examine grassroots interpretations of community gardens and groups and the implications of diverging understandings and experiences on the work of supportive non-governmental organizations. Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in North Bay, Ontario with data collected through participant observation, semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping focus groups with various community garden actors. This thesis demonstrates how two gardens and one gardening group are interpreted as different forms of urban agriculture, including community gardens, through the framework of political ecology. As the goal of this project is to provide the North Bay Community Garden Coalition with recommendations for strengthening their role in supporting and promoting community gardening initiatives in North Bay, I conclude my thesis by exploring the ways in which ‘community garden’ diversity impacts their mandate and by offering suggestions that reflect the context of North Bay.

community gardens, urban agriculture, community, political ecology, North Bay