COMMUNITY GARDENS, A SOLUTION FOR A HEALTHY AND PROFITABLE LIFE-STYLE
Undergoing the global economic crisis, Greece is a country that has been deeply affected on various aspects of daily life especially in urban centers. The cost of living has risen considerably and food products have become more expensive than it used to be. People struggle for a new socioeconomic transformation and experiment with new ideas and creative actions. Community Gardens seem to be the new emerging trend in Greece as they offer not only an economic and ecological renewal of the cities but also a healthy and a mental support to the people that get involved.
Being a member of the radio group of our school, I have participated in radio broadcasts that focus on environment issues. Community gardens and urban agriculture is the focus of our research as they tend to be the unfolding solution for a healthy and profitable urban lifestyle.
It has been observed that mainly people with lower income produce food in modern urban centres, with minimal energy consumption and lower production and transport costs. However, the number of people getting involved seems to rise as more and more want to check what exactly they are eating. When looking at building roofs, shade structures over parking lots and see gardens, we understand that people are trying to obtain the basic organic ingredients for food, to save money and simultaneously they contribute to a personal urbanism to reshape our cities. Urban agriculture is presented as one of a suite of strategies for helping to address both the crisis of obesity/diabetes as well as issues of food access, security and hunger.
After a short investigation in the prefecture of Thessaloniki, we found out that PERKA is currently the largest and most active voluntary urban farming team. It has been founded by citizens whose aim is to 2 grow plants, vegetables and herbs in a farm near the city. The first yard was created in an old abandoned military camp approximately 689.000m2 . The growth is a non-profit job and the foods that are being produced are pure organic. PERKA members not only they try to bring the people closer to nature, but they also try to bring all the people closer to each other. Besides, what is better than creating friendships in a beautiful green environment?
During our radio broadcast on fm100, 6, we interviewed Mr. Vaggelis Matziris, who is the Department Head of parks and gardens in Thessaloniki. He informed us about the very first Urban Vineyard that has been created in the heart of Thessaloniki in association with the wine-maker company “Gerovasileiou” and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. “A yard approximately 2000m2 was planted with a white and red variety of grapes. Now in 2-3 years we are expecting the first wine of the municipality of Thessaloniki. The wine will be given to the market after an auction for charity purposes” said Mr Matziris. The first urban vineyard is open to public, especially for schools which take part in environmental projects.
Part of our research was the interview we had with three postgraduate students MLA Landscape Architecture School of Architecture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki: Eleftheria Gavriilidou, Eleni Oureilidou (Architects) and Maria Ritou, (Agriculturist). They were selected by Angelopoulos CGIU Fellowship Programme 2014. The fellowship involved the participation in Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in March 2014 as well asthe sponsorship for the realization of their idea in Greece. The Project is called “Kipos3 : The City as a resource”. It examines how urban Community Gardens can contribute to an urban development, opening a social, economic and ecological renewal of the city with innovative perspectives. Urban agriculture could be developed in the Greek cities, operating not only as food resource introducing the primary sector in the city but also as a generator for socio-economic transformation towards the green economy. It proposes new life – styles and social environments envisioning a new way of living the urban life.
In Thessaloniki urban farms pop up in every imaginable place. The gardens on rooftops, terraces, balconies have become increasingly common. Even some students seem to contribute in this effort since they try to produce herbs and even vegetables in school environments.
We carried out a survey among people who are involved with community gardens. Thirty questionnaires were given to men and women aged 27-70 years. The majority of them enjoy saving money and eating healthy food while, at the same time, they develop strong relationships with neighbours and have the satisfaction of creativity.
Farming in community gardens is getting highly creative and innovative nowadays. It has significant benefits, including organic products, minimized cost, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Educating urban residents in Greece about agriculture and ecology offers not only material support but also a healthy lifestyle and a feeling of solidarity, creativity and happiness.
By Maria Patreli (16 year-old student)
Coordinator Teacher: Chrysoula Nenou School: Senior High School of Intercultural Education of Evosmos Thessaloniki, Greece
Dissemination Actions: The results of our research have been disseminated during our radio broadcast on fm100, 6 in May 2014. They have also been announced in the Festival of Environmental Education of Thessaloniki in 2014.