Community Garden ideas, hits & misses?

Over the last 7 months I’ve been involved as a voluntary facilitator with a local organisation, discussing how communities can become more resilient. Every month we learn about & discuss different topics. So far we’ve touched on Fire, water, energy, economy & this month it’s food & in September it’s health. The topics have been so interwoven but the thing that comes up time & time again is a community garden. So this months topic on food, a community garden will be front & centre. We’ve also reached out to our local council & have a meeting planned to discuss preliminary options. In our general area there are a couple of successful community gardens & I’ve invited the president of one of those to come along & sit at the table. As a community we really want this to work, it’s gaining traction & there are some very passionate people involved.

What I’m asking from the TGN community is advice on the start up of such a venture. Things like, is a committee important, Insurance, selling or swapping excess produce, dealing with different personalities & egos (conflict resolution) etc & anything I have not considered. At different times in my life, I have seen well intended actions start with enthusiasm & flourish for a while & then fizzle & die. I do not want this to happen on this project.

Your thoughts & ideas will be very welcome.


  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    I have never embarked on a project this ambitious, but I will offer some thoughts on what I see as important.

    I think a committee would be a good idea. You have to be very careful who you choose and each should have a specific area of expertise & maybe oversee a specific aspect of the garden related to that expertise. Maybe have interviews asking specifics so you can get an idea if & where a person could contribute? I'm not sure voting is the way to go, because popularity isn't always the best reflection of the best suited.

    Everyone has to be able to get along on any committee. A plan also has to be in place should conflict occur. It's important to have this in place before any incidents occur. Everyone should be able to sign off on the plan, with no reservations.

    A long term plan for the garden, along with how funds will be raised & allocated, is important for longevity. These should be funds with absolutely no political (or other self serving) strings attached.

    You also want to be careful that no one person holds the majority of the work, feels pressured to do something they don't have time for or a passion for. A place should not be filled with just anyone, just because. That's a recipe for disaster. You also want to plan things to prevent burnout now & in the future.

    You don't want a controller or someone who gets drunk on power at the helm on in this committee, or even on a committee. You want someone who has a good reputation in all sorts of situations and not just someone who can put together a great sounding resume on paper. You want substance, not empty flair. I think you are good at observing people, so you might want to be part of those decisions.

    I think you also need to have a plan in place to remove a gossip &/or manipulator if they somehow make their way in. Some will try. Be familiar with this type of person's tactics beforehand. These are tough ones to deal with once they weave their way in and can very quickly destroy anything good on a whim.

    Any type of discrimination whatsoever cannot be part of a community garden either. I think you are familiar with that.

    Some written, & later posted, guidelines to keep everything fair for all and running smoothly is good. You want clear rules for respect & care of tools, plants, & community property.

    If you sold excess, all that money should go right back into financing or improving the garden. Focused fundraisers might be a good idea. Maybe lunch or dinner fundraisers done with any excess produce? Purposing to give a percentage of excess produce (if it exists) to a local food bank might not be a bad idea either.

    Offering classes on how to plant, grow, harvest, preserve, utilize produce (cook), etc. would be good to increase community involvement and if needed, could serve to be a fundraiser of sorts sometimes. However, it would be most appropriate to give free or low cost classes on these subjects.

    I know that some people will not understand how a community garden works, so clarity in all things is important.

    Some members here have discussed a seed library. Perhaps a book library (gardening books) & seed library combined could be offered in the garden.

    These are some of the thoughts that I have. Hopefully you can use some of them or be able to spin other ideas from them.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 994 ✭✭✭✭

    I have not had the opportunity to participate I am aware of a couple in my area. The concept both use divides the available land into plots and people sign up for plots. You have to be a resident of the town (why I haven't been able to participate) Both seem to be successful although there may be some behind the scenes issues.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    In one of the larger communities near me there are at least 3 community gardens. One is run by a non-profit society who bought the property partly to save the historic house and partly to continue the long tradition of food production on this city property. It always had little to no lawn with most of the property used for fruit, veggie and flower beds. It became known as the Potato House due to the large crop of potatoes he produced every year.

    The other two are operated (I believe) by the local Food Policy Council. There are several of these community organizations in BC. I'll leave a link to a list of them that you can access to see what each one offers and supports. They do gardening classes and garden tours as well. There may be some ideas you can adapt for your group.