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Re: Selling the Garden

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Selling the Garden
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2002 08:58:36 EST

I looked at the City Year website and found it to be awfully impressive, 
(i.e., young, idealistic folks giving a year of their lives in a program 
similar to Vista,  but organized as freestanding, non-for profit like Habitat 
for Humanity serving urban communities).  A great program.  America is better 
because you exist. 

 I'd first like to send a thank-you to everyone who sent me resources on
 starting up a garden.  While planning has gone well, the garden project that
 City Year is working on in Columbia, SC is experiencing a big hang-up.
 We've managed to talk to potential sponsors and received some positive
 feedback, but finding an actual location has been difficult.  Both
 low-income housing developments we've called are quite reluctant to give up
 the space, and the neighborhood we've focused on has community members that
 are, for one reason or another, resistant.
 We've scheduled a speaking time at one community meeting.  I've also put in
 some calls to city council.  Does anyone have good tips on selling the idea
 of a garden >>

This is in addition to the wonderful suggestions that Jim Call of the CASA 
gardens in Alabama sent you.  

I'm playing devil's advocate here: As someone who has seen "gifts" given to 
communities that don't understand them devolve into something worse, I 
suggest you reevaluate your proposal in the face of the neighborhood 
opposition you are experiencing.  Perhaps, rather than putting on your green 
cape and setting all these folks to doing something the community is 
opposing, you might ask what the perceived needs are in that community and 
work to address them in your "year."
I have found that community gardens have a greater chance of success and 
sustainability when they are started by neighborhood residents, when they 
grow from the roots up.  Because, when the outsiders go away, if there's no 
grassroots support, you have an empty lot again.   

Community gardens can be started in one season, but their establishment as 
vital, community connected entities takes a few years to make happen.  The 
symbiosis between a garden and a community takes time -- it's like a 
marriage, really. 

Please forgive me for assuming, but if you're not local, there may be some 
opposition from an outsider who looks, talks and maybe prays differently than 
the target community and is bringing in a whole bunch of "outsiders" to do 
something that the affected members of the community may think is on the odd 

Please understand that "community gardening is good for you" is one of my 
core beliefs. ( My rabbi, who doesn't see me much on Saturdays during the 
summer suspects that this may be THE core belief, a no-no for a monotheist. 
Doing both can be amusing in the fall when I sometimes appear at early 
afternoon garden preservation rallies dressed in coat and tie, not like a 
gardener -- hard on the shoe shine, especially when I have to prune 
something. Adam does need to go back to the garden...)

O.K. You really want to do this - All politics is local: Maybe before you 
make your presentation, you should talk to some South Carolinian master 
gardeners who have community gardened this in the region. 

  This was culled from a gardening page on the Carolina living web page: 


1) In South Carolina, Greenville County Master Gardeners have created a 
community garden to feed local residents. Master Gardeners Carol McLaurin and 
Kris Burton, with help and encouragement from Master Gardener Jim Wilson, a 
gardening celebrity and spokesperson for the "Plant a Row" program, organized 
their fellow Master Gardeners to create a community garden in the backyard of 
the Project Host Soup Kitchen downtown. Nine raised beds located just a few 
steps from the kitchen provide fresh vegetables from spring to early winter.

Everyone is welcome to work in the garden and no prior experience is 
required, Ms. McLaurin says. "Besides Master Gardeners, we've had all kinds 
of local groups and individuals sharing their time here."

2) A Senior Citizen's community garden has been started in what I believe is 
a more affluent community. Why not talk to these folks? A former corporate 
executive or attorney who's gotten the community garden bug might be an 
interesting advocate for the city fathers, especially if he's Republican and 
" A much younger, 21st Century community garden was created at Sun City 
Hilton Head in Bluffton, South Carolina. The residents of this 
state-of-the-art retirement community enjoy the same benefits common to all 
who participate in a community garden: fresh produce and flowers, exercise, 
and fellowship. Their gardening group, organized by Bob and Nancy Ann 
Ciehanski, calls themselves the "Okatie Farmers." They rent garden plots to 
residents for a nominal fee. 

"The purpose of our community garden is twofold," says Mr. Ciehanski. "First, 
we want to have a variety of fresh, homegrown vegetables available to our 
residents. Second, we're here to have fun!" A long waiting list for gardening 
acreage has prompted the Ciehanskis and Sun City staff to begin planning more 
space than its current 54 plots." [Hint - ACGA membership and development 
committee, maybe you might visit with these folks if you're in the area. ] 

Good luck.  If you don't get buy-in for the CG project, the South Carolina 
"Harvest Hope Food Bank" could certainly use the volunteers.  

I also read on the City Year website that you are planning an initiative in 
Little Rock in spring 2003.  Your organization may want to contact the 
 AUGER community garden program (and my good buddy Pratt Remmell of the 
Dunbar gardens) <A HREF="http://www.auger-ar.org/";>AUGER.</A> If you really 
want to make an impact in Little Rock, you might want to contact the good 
folks at the Arkansas Hunger Coalition,  <A 
HREF="http://www.arkansashunger.org/index.html";>Arkansas Hunger Coalition</A> 
which serves as a clearing house for food security efforts in Little Rock and 
through out the whole state.  The work done by food security workers in this 
state (mostly volunteers) is remarkable. 

And while setting up a community garden would be my idea of a great way to 
spend a year, maybe you should ask the locals what they need, what they want, 
rather than "selling" them something.  The approach is different: Rather 
than, "look what we're giving you, " it's really more like, "how can I help?" 
.  If you're the people who help fix up grandma's house, educate the kids or 
feed people, this won't keep you from community gardening on a small piece of 
forgotten land on the side.

Many of the best community gardens have been efforts created "on the side" by 
very busy people.  I belong to one.

Great luck!
Adam Honigman 
Volunteer  <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community 

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