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Vegetables and Social Relations in Norway and the Netherlands

A Comparative Analysis of Urban Allotment Gardeners

Esther J. Veen and Sebastian Eiter

Abstract

This article aims to explore differences in motivation for and actual use of allotment gardens. Results from questionnaire surveys and semistructured interviews in two Norwegian and one Dutch garden show that growing vegetables and consuming the harvest is a fundamental part of gardening. The same is true for the social element—meeting and talking to other gardeners, and feeling as part of a community. Although gardeners with different socioeconomic backgrounds experience gardening to some extent similarly, access to an allotment seems more important for gardeners with disadvantaged personal backgrounds: both their diets and their social networks rely more on, and benefit more from, their allotments. This underlines the importance of providing easy access to gardening opportunities for all urban residents, and disadvantaged groups in particular. Public officers and policy makers should consider this when deciding upon new gardening sites or public investments in urban food gardens.