Gardens nurture the soil and soul of our community

For many people in cities like Tucson, growing a garden may seem unattainable, labor-intensive and time-consuming.

But a partnership with Primavera Foundation and Community Gardens of Tucson (CGT) is shifting that perception while bringing neighborhoods and people together with free community gardens.

The partnership, which began in 2023, encourages community engagement, cultivating intergenerational and cross-cultural connections, and increasing knowledge of gardening. It also aims to boost access to healthy, organic foods through workshops, and preserving and improving green spaces in communities throughout Tucson.

“Our community and residential gardens provide a nurturing environment for Primavera participants to strengthen their sense of community and take proactive roles in their neighborhood,” said Brian McGrath, Primavera Foundation’s Chief Asset and Property Management Officer. “This partnership allows our participants to gain access to essential tools and education, fostering the creation of sustainable gardens and promoting overall well-being.”

As one of the two full-time staff members at CGT, Executive Director Brittany Guerrero understands the challenges small organizations and nonprofits face when tackling food insecurity and creating sustainable change that spreads through communities and generations.

In May, both organizations will engage in a year-long project to foster community through leadership development and transform three Primavera community gardens in low-income areas (Las Abuelitas, La Capilla, and Tierra Anita). The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona is funding the project.

CGT relies heavily on volunteers to take leadership roles within gardens, seeking reliable, dedicated gardeners, sometimes offering stipends.

An area of interest for CGT has been to expand into neighborhoods experiencing food deserts.

“That was one of the intersections we saw: we could bring our skills and abilities in gardening, in managing community gardens, and in leadership development within community gardens, while Primavera has existing gardens and a community in place we can support.”

Through the partnership, CGT aims to increase community involvement and create more “third spaces,” which CGT Board Chair Gillian Paine-Murrieta defines as a place separate from your home or workplace where “you feel very comfortable and relaxed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on community gardens and gave them a platform to promote growing food locally.

“I can’t tell you how many times I talk to somebody and they’re like, ‘Oh, that garden’s like right down the road from me!’,” Paine-Murrieta said. “That’s where community connection starts, very close to home.”

Another area that remains a focus is the positive impact on well-being gardens can have.

That’s why Primavera partnered with CGT: to create communities where everyone is welcome, with people from different generations, backgrounds and points-of-view, working together to improve food resilience and connections in a healthy, sustainable environment. 

“It is a healing place for people,” said Paine-Murrieta, of CGT. “At Primavera, that’s what we can help create through the gardens – a healing space for people to come together and make connections. When you make connections, there’s the possibility of hearing about a job opening or, ‘Oh, I need somebody to help take care of my yard’ or things like that.”

“Connections can stave away the loneliness that many feel and create opportunities that might not have been there other ways.”

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