How to Plan a Community Garden
Planning a community garden is an excellent way to make a difference in your neighborhood. But don't start digging holes and planting crops just yet. It's very important that you speak with the city or local municipality to determine who owns the property and if the owner(s) are willing to either loan the property, sell it, or donate it to the cause. Regardless of whether the area is city owned or privately owned, there are some prerequisites that need to be met. Make sure the area gets adequate sunlight, has access to water, and is not located in an area that has been, or could become, contaminated by flooding or nearby industrious waste. Community gardens do well in residential neighborhoods where those who are interested in gardening have a relatively easy access to the garden.
Jumping Through Hoops
Because there is always the fear of insurance issues, start with the city attorney and an insurance agent who is familiar with this type of endeavor. If the project is feasible, it will probably still have to be brought up for vote with city planning and/or council meeting. Be prepared for the meeting with a list of people who are interested in such a project. Come prepared with a long list of reasons why a community garden would be beneficial to the town, and a willingness to sacrifice a good chunk of your own time, at least until the project gets underway. Once you have located a spot for the community garden, and have been given a green light from the local municipality, it's time to get community input. Who else is interested in a community garden? How would a community garden be maintained? Should there be bylaws and/or dues? Who should be on the committee, and what will your project be called? Should the garden be split into individual plots, or should it be one big happy garden? To get the answers you need to some of these and other questions that will arise as the project gets underway:
- Announce your idea for an organic community garden by running an ad in the local newspaper.
- Make the meeting as fun as it is educational. Depending on the amount of interested individuals, you can either hold a round-robin table meeting or hook up a microphone so that everyone has a chance to voice their thoughts.
- Take notes and make sure all input is taken into consideration.
- Round up volunteers, especially those who have gardening experience.
Rules and Regulations
A community garden is a big undertaking. Staying within the law is the first point of business; the second is making sure the project is handled in a fair and efficient manner. Organizing a community garden is a job that requires a lot of dedicated people. Rules must be set in place, followed, and enforced, and work sessions and follow-up sessions will need to be arranged. Those in charge will also be responsible for handling disputes and basically fine-tuning the entire project.
Funds and Sponsors
Money may be needed to remove trash and debris, purchase gardening equipment and organic mulch, as well as wood to create signs, garden markers, and stakes to mark off plots. Finding a few sponsors is a great idea, but if you can't find a sponsor, you'll need to raise money in some other manner. Excellent fundraisers that work include a car wash, a door to door can drive, and a community-wide yard sale. Once the garden has been planted, additional funds can be made by selling produce and flower bouquets, fresh from your very own community garden.
If the garden is large enough, obtain a license from the local Health Department and sell baked goods from the garden at the local farmer's market. To ensure you have enough produce to keep a handy supply of canned and baked goods on the shelves, plant one row of strawberries and another of raspberries and add a six foot grape trellis at the end of the garden. Homemade jelly and jam are always hot ticket items at the farmer's market. And don't forget herbs. A variety of culinary herbs can be dried and packaged, or woven into small kitchen wreaths.