Katleen Brangers, a founding member of Boerse Poort was interviewed for this story.
In 2010 Stad Ghent called for people who were interested in being part of a community garden allotment in Brugse Poort. This neighbourhood dates back to the 19th Century and has very little green space. It is also home to a large migrant community of many different cultures and a large student community. The aim was to provide gardening space to this densely populated area in the form of plots and communal gardens. It was up to the people interested to create a structure and model around which the allotment could exist. Katleen was one of the original members.
The first meeting was chaotic but had a great energy. There were people who had experience growing food and herbs, some knew a lot about permaculture and organic gardening, and others who were just interested to learn about gardening and get involved. They visited the land and divided it into a series of individual plots and a communal garden area. A working group was formed to make decisions and move things forward. Workers from Stad Gent helped with clearing the area and getting it ready.
In early 2012 the group put the call out to the local community with flyers and information meetings. They had 16 applications, each with a particular idea or theme for their garden. All 16 groups were granted a plot. Many people took a course in the Spring about growing plants which helped with growing early on. Boerse Poort stipulates that everything must be grown organically, so composting and mulching were important skills to learn.
One Sunday, Katleen showed us around the different allotments.
One garden is looked after by five African women who grow lesser known vegetables, many of them unique to their cooking styles and interests. They are a lively bunch, always chatting and calling out to each other as they garden. Their plot is full to the brim with plants, well organised with not a spare spot of soil to be seen.
Another plot is shared by eight families with children and the aim of the group is to provide a space where the kids can help with the gardening, learn about plants, spend time outdoors and get excited about growing food. They were all there on the day that we visited with Katleen. Ellen, one of the members, said she got involved because she had grown up in the city and was never around gardening or growing food. She wanted to make sure her kids have the opposite experience, surrounded by plants, soil and nature. The families meet once a month as a group and drop by individually whenever they feel like it. They often bring their friends and other kids along too. There is a sandpit built under a huge tree completing the perfect kid-friendly garden.
All in all there are about 200 locals involved with Boerse Poort. It’s a wonderful community where sharing skills and friendship thrives around growing plants. Plans for the future include a communal garden in a field and bee keeping.