Cultivating community sense
Via Carlo Esterle , 20132 Milan

In Italian towns, it is common for municipalities to reserve land for urban gardens. Residents can apply for a small parcel and grow it for a certain time, normally many years. This is the story of a particular urban garden in Milan, lived as a communitarian place.

The area of via Padova, in Milan, is famous for the strong social mix, it has always been a working-class area, home to different generations of migrants. Here, the cohabitation among people is not always easy, and projects focusing on community building are much needed. Implementing a community garden projects seems to provide an answer not just from a sustainable perspective, but it also contributes to building a stronger social substance.

The social context of via Padova enhances the value of the garden project. The project has been promoted by Legambiente, a national association for environmental protection, considering that the community garden is promoting values such as a sharing community and management of the local commons. The local garden opened three years ago, after a volunteer-based restructuring of the area. Before this initiative, the plot was degraded and used as a dumping site. Volunteers worked hard for the re-establishment of this small green area, unfortunately, the field is contaminated. Gardening seemed like a lost option, yet people came up with an alternative, using enormous tanks filled with fertilised soil placed above the contaminated land. The containers are made of recycled wood that comes from a building site in the neighbourhood. Their elevated provides more than a gardening option, allowing people on wheelchair to have access to the activities going on in the garden and be a vibrant part of this project.

The community garden opens its doors to everyone, the whole plot is shared and all members have to contribute in managing the garden. They grow not only vegetables, but also flowers, fruit trees and you can also find a bee yard. Every month a general meeting of participants discusses the main issues. The harvest is shared every Saturday among members that have a constant presence and are active in the garden. The neighbourhood is invited to consider this place as its own. Occasional parties and events are organised and everyone can propose activities to the Members.

Currently, the local council is discussing the licence renewal for the project. Unfortunately, it does not seem easy to have a new permission. Still, everyone hopes that the councillors will understand the importance of this place for the neighbourhood and its inhabitants.

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