Community gardens are incredibly helpful resources. They not only build a sense of comradery among residents, by having a garden growing food it allows residents to work together in creating healthy food for themselves and for members who need the extra resources. One study had found that members of households with adults who were members of community gardens eat 1.4 times more vegetables than households that don’t. Although the number is growing having risen by 2 million from 2008 to 2013, not all areas have one in place. Setting one up is easy though and helping create one can be an excellent way to help the community around you.
The first step to creating a community garden is bringing the community together. To organize a group, consider creating posters, setting up a Facebook page, or bringing up your idea with a local facility such as a church, school, senior home, or town hall. By bringing people together you ensure that the garden will have adequate participation, organization, and planning. Committees may be created for tasks such as Funding and Resources, Youth Activities, Construction, and Communication. By breaking down the task into smaller pieces, it becomes much more achievable.
While working on getting people involved some things to consider are how membership will be coordinated. Will it be by residency? Will members play membership dues in exchange for access to the garden? Will agreement with the rules be the barrier of entry? In addition, will the gardeners meet for events or will attendance be free roaming. Will there be community tools, or should everyone bring their own? Will there be locks with a combination or will the gate be open to everyone?
Gardens aren’t cheap, being backed by a sponsor allows for proper funding in order to obtain tools, soil, seeds, fencing, rocks, pathways, or any number of materials you may need in order to create your community garden. A sponsor can either be obtained through a private company, an individual, or through a facility such as a school, church, or senior care home. Often municipalities will award money through Community Development Block Grants which fund projects that help with community growth. Certain community gardens achieve their funding through membership rates, and others get their funding through donations obtained either through an online donation platform such as GoFundMe or through in-person fundraising events and group donations. Having a sponsor will allow greater freedom with planning and ease financial strain on participants.
The garden needs a location that can be easily accessible yet unobtrusive. Either obtaining a permit to use an unused lot, obtaining a lease of agreement from the plot owner, or using a plot of land already available at a public facility are ideal areas in which to start your garden. The location should be central to your planned community.
Once a group is organized and funding is achieved, development can begin. When creating a plan, care should be taken to consider the group the garden will be catering to. Will the garden participants be children, seniors, residents in the area, or people looking for a good area to compost in? In addition to figuring out who this garden will cater to, bouncing ideas off of members of this group can be an excellent way to get feedback on issues you might not have thought about such as a fall hazard, height of crops and accessibility, terrain, and allergies. The garden may be drawn up as a schematic, the materials allocated, and the tasks broken up into pieces and assigning them to members. A pleasing and well thought out sketch can give a clear idea of pathways, fencing, and vegetable will make the creation of your garden go smoother and more quickly.
Preparing the garden will be the most difficult task, having a healthy number of attendees to prepare will be ideal. Work crews should be organized by area before the day begins and proper tools prepared. Some of the things to consider as you set up are including a rainproof bulletin board in order to post events and messages, handing out flyers to passersby will promote membership. In addition, consider if your garden will be organic, what kinds of plants attendants may plant, and if pets will be allowed within the perimeters. Setting up your garden can be done as quick as a day or if a week, but the faster the process goes the faster people can begin planting and working together to create food and flowers for each other.
During and after the creation of your garden, setting up a committee of a few people to cover the budgeting, upkeep, maintenance, and future for your garden should be ideal. By giving a few people the responsibility over the garden, it can help keep your garden growing and mitigate disaster if weather or vandalism occur. Having a plan in place can allow for a more streamlined process when dealing with issues regarding membership or the garden. Having an administration also provides a few individuals with a high level of knowledge about the community garden that current members or interested members may talk to for more information.
Finally, giving your garden a digital presence will make it official. Having a website will be an excellent resource in gaining new members, setup is easy and free through website creation services such as Wix and SquareSpace. It creates a space with relevant information and guidelines that can be easily directed to in the case of interested parties. A website also allows people to sign up for a mailing list to get more information and relevant updates as they arrive. Include pictures, rules, and a mission statement on your site, even think about creating a message board for members to discuss updates and relevant information. By setting up site and keeping members interconnected, you can keep participation high and the garden thriving as more members arrive.