Creating a community garden and its community

VermontCathy Posts: 1,815 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited October 2021 in The Urban Gardener

Some months back, I mentioned that I was thinking about trying to organize a community of gardeners in my town. Some of the towns around have community gardens, but we do not.

I mentioned my interest in a church Bible study, and there was definitely interest in this as a potential mission to help the people around us. At the time, I was too busy to pursue it, and with COVID restrictions in place it would have been difficult to form a group and get people together to garden.

But with ongoing shortages likely to continue through 2022, seeds readily available at sale prices, and people more willing to get together in small groups, it may be time to start putting something together.

I am thinking of starting with a few people in our church, including our new minister, connecting with other churches in the town who often work with our church, and trying to identify a core of people interested in making this happen, and finding someone to offer some land for informal allotments.

Has anyone done this in their own communities, particularly in the last year or two? What worked, what didn't? What were the biggest challenges?


  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,810 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am a member of a Veterans Rotary group. There is a possibility that we will be given the opportunity to manage an established landscape, fruit and vegetable garden that has been maintained by a church group.

    Our goal would be to:

    Get community veterans out in the fresh air for health and mental well-being. A garden would allow support animals and family members to join in the experience.

    Have garden beds adaptable to handicapped gardeners.

    Of course, provide food to needy members of the community.

    Our club currently does not have a large membership, so we may also seek to partner with a local homeless support organization.

    I will be watching this thread for help also.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,391 admin

    The community garden in the community close to me is run by the city's "Food Policy Council". It is a group organized by the city to maintain the community garden. Plots (raised beds) are rented out annually. The rent goes to pay for the installation of the water system, fencing around the garden site, signage, etc. So these plots are primarily for people living in apartments without any outdoor space. There is also a garden run by a non-profit society that has a community composting program. I believe it gets quite a bit of funding from grants (federal, provincial and local).

    Another community in my region has a garden that is operated by its Community Association. I believe their plots are free but they receive funding from one of our health authorities and provincial grants issued to non-profit societies. They have been able to build a greenhouse in addition to their outside plots.

    A community to the north of me has a garden run by the museum and science center. In addition to supplying food to the community, it is operating as an educational garden. This is a much larger city and they have several community gardens. One of the others is run by a local Baptist church group on a lot adjacent to the church. I believe those plots are free.

    Some of the schools in our school district have started "School Gardens". They are used to produce plants for fundraisers (tomato and pepper starts) but also to help with "Farm to School" programs, bringing in fresh produce to the lunch programs. Its really good to see schools with garden plots and greenhouses.

    A large grocery chain in one community has donated a huge amount of seeds to their community garden.

    So lots of different ways to get gardens started.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,815 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey Wow, you have an enormous range of public community gardens in your area!

    We have a nature center that runs some plots on part of its property, and a group in a nearby town that gardens one moderately large plot collectively and shares the produce. Neither of these is in my town.

    I talked to our minister this morning and got an enthusiastic response. I hadn't realized that grants may be available to help with input costs. We would donate some of the resulting food to local feed-the-poor programs, while the rest would go to local people who help with the gardening work, but don't have their own land.

    Apparently the minister is willing to let of use some land, which gets us over the first obstacle. We'll see what happens next.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2021

    The town above me has fantastic community gardens and they are supported by the city council and grants.

    My town has been slow to get involved in gardens but they are necessary. Our one council member reached out to a small town south of us and they now have a very successful community garden.

    City councils, some parks, churches, are a few organizations that show interest. Any business or church that has a food bank would be a good place to check out.

    From my experience the biggest issues in a community garden is getting land and land that has a source of water. Having a shed or building to store tools. Some sort of insurance. Keeping excitement for the gardens up so that people come and take cake of them. One way to so this is classes on gardening. One community garden had a dinner at the end of the season with where people shared their harvest.

    Some sort of rules (I prefer the term guidelines) are in place.

    A small shared garden plot for children can be a huge success.

    I do have a site with helpful tips I can dig out

    Community gardens are a passion of mine. It adds so much to a community plus you have the value of fresh food and sharing garden ideas.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,481 admin

    @VermontCathy I have friends involved with a community garden not far from me. A few years ago they were gifted the land. They started with “very small steps” and now it has taken off. So much so that they have a covered meeting place, toilets and facilities to have tea, coffee and a BBQ. They hold workshops, mostly free and invite other interested people.

    The raised beds are leased out annually for $60/year. The beds are 3mtsx2mts. Most people rent 1 but usually share the harvest between themselves. There are compost bays, fruit trees for all to share. They have a little stall and sell excess produce and jams, chutneys etc. Its a meeting place for liked minded, mostly pensioners who live in units with no space but more people are catching on to the idea, so a broad cross section of people.

    What drives this community garden concept, a well organised, enthusiastic committee, especially the secretary position. They apply for grants, have fundraisers and seems to work very well. They organised local tradies to build the facilities, with donated time and building supplies. It took a while but it is now a great facility. A few years ago I was asked to do a “paddock to plate” workshop. I mainly concentrated on salads and vegetable dishes that were easy to make and to point out that you are what you eat. Threw a few more herbs into recipes and I believe now they have a community herb garden, for all to share.

    So my advice to you is, try to get an enthusiastic committee on board and support each other, it could come under the umbrella of your church. Hopefully the minister is a keen gardener or one who is willing to get on the committee. Approach local town council to get involved, they will be aware of funding opportunities, just one contact person is enough. Good luck, great initiative.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,391 admin

    I learned about this community greenhouse in Inuvik (120 miles north of the Arctic Circle) on a documentary about the far north. They have converted an old hockey arena. So its possible to have a thriving community garden society no matter where you live.