It is sometimes fashionable to speak of a “war on poverty” or a war against some other social or economic malaise. The concept of a “victory” or “war” garden was used during WWI and WWII in countries including Canada and the US to emphasize the power of community in contributing to the war effort in Europe. Of course, these gardens had important economic effects during wartime – however, they also demonstrate the power of communities in providing for themselves both in a physiological and spiritual sense.
The concept of a victory garden is still crucial today in times of relative peace. Today, the rationale for these gardens is not related to any kind of threat abroad. Rather the emphasis is on what local communities can do to achieve victory over dependency. Of course, this does not nullify the need for government social services but it does highlight the degree to which neighbourhoods and communities can participate in a meaningful way to combat poverty through self-sustaining collective efforts. Hence, the importance of non-profit organizations that facilitate this kind of community activity.
Hamilton Victory Gardens is such an organization. Established in 2011 by Bill Wilcox, HVG began with a single garden and has now planted seven gardens throughout Hamilton, Ontario with plans to establish additional sites this year. All produce grown in the gardens is donated to local food banks and hot meal programs. What makes us special is that many of the volunteers in the gardens are a part of the marginalized population that utilizes these services. (We have wonderful stories about these individuals that we will share in future posts!) In this way, HVG gives advocates community – the coming together of different segments of the population to achieve victory over poverty and socio-economic marginalization. Ultimately, our vision is for these marginalized populations to take effective ownership and stewardship of the gardens.
Our volunteers also include students from local colleges and universities like Columbia College and McMaster University and elementary schools like St. Lawrence, Bennetto and Lawfield. Volunteering in the gardens is a great way to experience the value and power of community. Part of what we want to accomplish through these posts is to show how much we appreciate the hard work of our volunteers. In October of 2013, HVG hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and we want to continually remind both our supporters and the general public just what a significant contribution our volunteers have made through their efforts including construction of garden beds, harvesting, garden maintenance, delivery of produce to food banks, promotional activities and day-to-day administration.
Hamilton Victory Gardens is ultimately about facilitating community efforts to combat poverty and create a more equitable socio-economic environment. These gardens are about victory over impoverishment through a strategy of self-sustaining community projects. Intrinsic to this victory is the participation of members of the communities from all walks of life. We encourage donors and volunteers to come out and help HVG in achieving this victory.