Cultivate Team
Jesi Carson Interaction designer- Project lead 
Theunis Snyman- Industrial Designer, hole digger and rain harvester guy.
Emily Neufeldt- Artist and Inspiration Engine
Sam Jiang- Interaction/web designer.
Cultivate Projects: Fostering Community Engagement and Food Security through Collaborative Gardening
Cultivate Projects represents a groundbreaking interdisciplinary thesis initiative by four Emily Carr University of Art and Design students. Aimed at leveraging underutilized spaces for communal benefit, this project seeks to intertwine community building with food security. Through the establishment of collaborative gardens, particularly in Queensbury Garden, North Vancouver, and a rural village in Shongwe, South Africa, Cultivate Projects aspires to enhance local food assets and foster community engagement.
Context and Objectives
The primary goal of Cultivate Projects was to harness orphaned spaces to bolster the connection between community development and food security. By creating opportunities for neighborhood-scale collaborative gardening, the project aimed to engage communities in North Vancouver, Canada, and Shongwe, South Africa, in sustainable food production practices, addressing local food security challenges while promoting communal unity.
The project's approach in North Vancouver involved a multi-step engagement process with the community. Partnering with a local restaurant adjacent to a small strip mall, the team initiated consultations, brainstorming sessions, and planning activities with community members to repurpose an abandoned space for communal benefit. This collaborative effort culminated in securing a community grant from Vancity Credit Union, leading to the establishment of a sharing garden.
In Shongwe, South Africa, the project extended its reach by collaborating with a faith group and an NGO involved in housing projects for orphaned families. Recognizing the lack of food-growing capabilities in these new homes, Cultivate Projects facilitated the co-creation of gardens, incorporating input from the local NGO, orphanage head, and community leaders to ensure the gardens' sustainability and relevance to the families' needs.
Key Insights and Challenges
A pivotal insight from the initiative was the critical role of stewardship in the longevity and success of community gardens. In both contexts, ensuring ongoing maintenance and support was essential to prevent the gardens from falling into disuse. In South Africa, the challenge of protecting gardens from roaming animals led to innovative solutions, such as reinforced fencing, demonstrating the necessity of adapting strategies to local conditions.
Impact and Learnings
Cultivate Projects has underscored the significant potential of collaborative gardening to enhance food security and community engagement. In Vancouver, the transformation of an unused space into a productive garden has not only provided a source of fresh produce but also a focal point for community interaction and collaboration. Similarly, in South Africa, the integration of food gardens into housing projects for orphaned families has addressed crucial food security needs while fostering a sense of community and self-reliance.
The project highlights the importance of community involvement in sustainability initiatives, from the planning phase through to ongoing maintenance. The engagement strategies employed, including partnering with local businesses and NGOs, consulting with community members, and adapting to local challenges, offer valuable lessons for similar projects worldwide. Moreover, the project's success in diverse settings—urban North Vancouver and rural South Africa—illustrates the universal applicability of community gardening as a tool for social and environmental sustainability.
Cultivate Projects demonstrates the transformative power of community gardening in bridging the gap between food security and community development. By fostering collaborative efforts and adapting to local challenges, such initiatives can significantly contribute to sustainable development goals, offering a replicable model for communities around the globe.
CULTIVATE Queensbury Garden