It might seem like a strange question. Malmö, a city of about 300.000 inhabitants in the South of Sweden – and New York, with a population of more than 8 millions (not that far from the total population of Sweden!!).
But when the Swedish journalist Johanna G Jimenez and the photographer Christian Jimenez, born and brought up in New York, took a closer look, they realized that Malmö’s oldest urban community garden had it’s roots in the American big city.
They followed the tracks and found Lisa Ising, from Malmö, who visited the community gardens in New York in the 1990:s and then went back home and started one there: Slottsträdgården.
Nowadays the 12.000 square meter big vegetable and food garden is run by the local authorities, with help of a lot of volunteers, and Malmö has become one of the Swedish cities where you find most urban community gardening.
In the book Johanna and Christian have made, Staden som åkermark (The city as farmland), they dig deeper into the subject, visiting community gardens in both cities, exploring the different functions they have for people and what kind of role these gardens could play in the future.
I may be a bit of a countryside-romantic at the moment (springtime is just so heartbreakingly beautiful in the countryside…), but the part of me that enjoys living in the city and doesn’t mind staying here is enormously encouraged and inspired by this book. Living in a city doesn’t mean keeping your hands out of the soil.
The examples are abundant: People of all kinds, using forgotten spaces between houses, on the top of buildings or collecting people’s food waste for compost, wandering about in verdant mini-paradises and harvesting all kinds of delicious vegetables and fruits. Together.
That little word – together – is important.
When I recently interviewed Johanna G Jimenez for an article in Effekt, she told me that the community gardens are good for so much more than just producing food and greening the city: all these projects also mean a lot to strengthen the sense of belonging in a neighbourhood and to make people get to know their neighbours. In Malmö, the project “Barn i stan” (Child in the city) is one example of how growing food can create new connections between different generations in a neighbourhood with a bad reputation.
Now you won’t only find vegetables growing between the houses, but also a new belief in the future.