COVID-19: Opening Community Gardens Safely
A number of questions are arising from regional public health directorates, organizations, and national and regional partners on the possibility of starting the season for community and collective gardens while respecting physical distancing and hygiene measures against COVID-19. Many partners are trying to determine if it will be possible to open community gardens on May 1, the start date for direct seeding. The most significant production usually begins in the second or third week of May. Québec has a short cultivation period. The decision to open the gardens warrants timely examination as a delayed opening may compromise production capacity for the entire summer season.
This document’s purpose is to support the decision-making of local authorities regarding the opening of community gardens by providing evidence of their benefits to population health as well as the conditions to respect to ensure the protection of their users in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A community garden generally refers to a piece of land divided into parcels that can be tended by an individual, a family or collectively by a group of friends. A collective garden refers to a single parcel of land tended by a group of members who share the decision-making and tasks (MAPAQ: https://www.mapaq.gouv.qc.ca/fr/Productions/
agricultureurbaine/trucsconseils/Pages/Jardinagedanslesespacespublics.aspx [in French only]). The organizations responsible for managing this type of initiative vary (e.g. municipalities, boroughs, organizations, citizens’ groups and public institutions).
In the context of this pandemic and the increased demand for food aid, gardening could help improve access to nutritious foods for Québec residents. However, not all Québec residents have access to a private space where they can grow fruits and vegetables, hence the importance of considering opening community gardens in the coming weeks to ensure, if applicable, that protection measures are in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among gardeners.
This document was written in response to a request in the health emergency context of COVID-19. As it was created within a short time frame and based on knowledge obtained from a quick examination of publications and from a non-exhaustive summary analysis of the scientific literature, the findings presented in this document may need to be reviewed as the scientific knowledge related to the current pandemic develops.