Cultivating Community and Identity: Urban Gardening in the Bhutanese-Nepali Refugee Community of Columbus, Ohio

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The Ohio State University

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact that participating in community gardening has on the Bhutanese-Nepali refugee community of northeastern Columbus, Ohio. Studies have shown that gardening is correlated with mental wellbeing, low crime rates, and a strong sense of community, among other things. However, while many Bhutanese-Nepalis garden in American cities, the role of gardening and community gardening in these Bhutanese-Nepali communities has not been studied. Understanding why Bhutanese-Nepalis choose to garden in Columbus and the benefits that gardening can have for this growing immigrant population could contribute to knowledge of how to achieve an urban environment in which Bhutanese-Nepalis and other New American (immigrant) communities can thrive. This knowledge could be valuable in forming inclusive, effective policies that contribute to immigrants' success in Columbus. Columbus and Franklin County's Local Food Action Plan, which outlines goals for a sustainable local food system in Columbus and Franklin County, notes the need for policies that are inclusive of New Americans and other marginalized groups. This study could also be beneficial to local organizations that work with immigrants, and to other Columbus residents, as learning about how Bhutanese-Nepalis' feel about the significance of urban farming could lead to a better overall understanding of Bhutanese-Nepali refugees as a group within the Columbus community. Data for this study were collected through 20 interviews with Bhutanese-Nepali refugees who farm plots at two community garden sites in the Northland-Karl Road area of Columbus. Results of this study suggest that gardening benefits Bhutanese-Nepalis in Columbus by enabling them to hold onto a farming-based cultural identity, giving them access to foods used in traditional Nepali dishes, serving as an opportunity for people of all ages to socialize and pass on knowledge and skills to younger generations, and having positive effects on mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and the community's sense of togetherness.



Community gardening, Refugees, Bhutanese-Nepali, Identity