On 1 and 2 October 2016, representatives of FORUM 16 attended the meeting of UnaVision Macedonia that took place in Bitola. UnaVision is a global network of individuals, organizations and communities working for the common good. Discussion during the meetings focused on the future of this network in Macedonia, and several ideas which would be possible to implement in the form of cooperatives or social enterprises. Representatives of FORUM 16 presented two ideas: the creation of a Community Garden in Bitola and forming a shared program, meeting and work space(or Fusion lab)to serve both business and civil society individuals and organizations. Ideas presented by other participants during the meetings were included: forming a cooperative for software, opening a restaurant, creating a social garden,among others.
The idea of a community garden is a concept that our Association has recently begun to explore. One possible site for such a garden is the former military base in Bitola, which is near the center of town, and a short walk from the city’s major park, museum and other tourist attractions. It is also located close to many long-established apartment communities. Since 2011, this “Golden Hill” site has been under development for private housing and various commercial, governmental and educational institutions. The long range plan for the area includes new recreation facilities, but so far there has been no development of public spaces intended to serve the people of Bitola. Our would be to develop a portion of this space as a Community Garden, where apartment dwellers from all over Bitola can grow their own food and flowers, and share in a community of learning and teaching designed to create a healthier, more beautiful city. Following discussion with our colleagues, we would propose an expanded concept to include setting aside a portion of the plots in the Community Garden for persons with disabilities and others who receive some form of social benefits.
Community Gardens exist in many countries around the world, where they provide fresh products and plants as well as contributing to a sense of community and connection to the environment and an opportunity for satisfying labor and neighborhood improvement. We envision a project that provides small garden plots to as many people as possible, and which has common space for community gatherings and educational program for children and adults. The site would be landscaped with stone walkways and seating areas in various locations. Gardeners would be encouraged to use their own produce, as well as to form collective projects for selling and donating flowers and vegetables to support the educational programs and other community service activities.