RE: Organizing a garden
Don & Friends,
Please realize that I'm dealing with race, and a region of the country that
is west of the Hudson river so I may step on some folks toes without meaning
to. Being a New Yorker is provincial in it's own way: folks who would be
laying landmines for each other in their homelands have to get along here to
survive. The powerful know that people of good will can always be set
against each other by pressing ethnic, racial and religious buttons.
Political sophistication comes with saying, "I know I'm [fill in the blank],
I was born that way. Now how do you stand on that issue and why? Who's
paying you?" When someone plays the race card, we always ask why. Folks in
other parts of the country burn Hilary in effigy, we elect her to the
Senate. Why? We don't need a mom or role model as Senator, we need someone
who will represent our interests - i.e. do a job or get fired.
Adam's truism; "Community gardening is 50% gardening and 100% political,"
Tip O'Neil's truism, "All politics is local," is corollary in this instance.
As much as liberal white Jewish Adam in NYC may disapprove of the balance of
power in governance of the community gardens in Southern Baptist Town X as
portrayed in your email, there is a political fact here: the gardens are
preserved, the municipality has bought into it, the gardeners as a whole are
participating and have settled for what they have. I may not be happy with
the paternalistic set-up, but I don't live there. Folks elsewhere may not
like our multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi sexual-preferenced NYC garden
communities but hey, we live with it ( our parties are lots of fun!)
My two cents worth: Your buddy shouldn't waste his time and energy playing
dissident against that nice energetic white church lady's community gardens
and complacent African-American constituency.
Think Don Quixote and the windmills.
Better he should find himself some like minded multi-hued folks and set up
an ACGA democratically governed community garden, raise some money, get
some land and just do it. Gardening well ( pace Pio Baroja) is the best
revenge. Who knows? With a Wendy's in town folks may get tired of Micky
How long does it take?
First get some people, figure out objectives and governance ( think
Mayflower Compact), get a grubstake and get somewhere to garden. Anything
good takes time. The timetable depends on how quickly you can organize the
elements and get firm commitments from project participants. Hint: Share
credit, let folks think it was their idea in the first place - it's
community not "me."
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dboek@aol.com [SMTP:Dboek@aol.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 8:01 AM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org; Dboek@aol.com
> Subject: [cg] Organizing a garden
> I'm pondering a friend's community garden problems, not really sure what I
> should tell him. I'd appreciate any suggestions.
> Briefly, he lives in a Southern city, not unlike my home Charlotte. He's
> contacted me about starting a community garden - he lives in middle class
> part of town, unusual for being integrated, with good intercultural
> relations. The Quakers have their church there, maybe that helps. Anyway,
> there is still some vacant land, though development is encroaching fast.
> wants to help organize a community garden. He's now shopping the idea
> to churches and community groups, like neighborhood assns.
> He has 2 questions.
> First, how long does it take to get a garden up and running, from bright
> to planting day #1?
> Second and much trickier - what should he do about the existing community
> garden organization? Currently, in his city, for the past decade, one
> has defined community gardening . They are based in a Baptist church ina
> wealthy White section of town. The force behind the group is the director,
> saintly, very energetic and very opinionated White woman from the church
> has made the project her life. The group has organized a half dozen
> all on the same model - vacant lots, surrounded by a chainlink fence, in
> near an impoverished Black neighborhood. It is a long story, but in short
> these gardens do little to build community. Though representatives from
> garden attend 'board meetings', these are held at the church, and all
> decisions are made by the director and influential church members, all
> No garden has a central gathering area or is used for anything but
> (except for 2 with greenhouses, managed by White volunteers or a paid
> part-time 'horticulture consultant', also White). All gardeners are Black
> (many are older women). There is no composting at any garden, nor are
> other environmental practices. Funds (and the group has done very well
> raising money and getting official city support) have gone to things like
> buying a rototiller, a van and the greenhouses. There's been some
> from Black community organizers, but the director and the group leaders
> become extremely irate whenever this is mentioned - phrases used,
> to my friend, are 'thankless' and 'pointless complaining-what do those
> On the other hand, the group is at least creating gardens! No gardens at
> might exist without the director's tireless and completely unpaid work and
> the church's fundraising. Though there are no White gardeners, the
> relationship between the director and some of the Black gardeners is very
> warm and close. My friend tried to crack the 'color bar' last year by
> signing up for a plot in a newly created garden. This caused much
> consternation, and he lasted about a week - after a minor misunderstanding
> about a garden key, the (White) director sent my (also White) friend a
> calling him a racist, and he decided to leave the group and the garden.
> So, a year later, here is his dilemma: In organizing in his own community,
> should he continue to try to work with the existing garden group, or try
> strike out on his own? If he goes on his own, how can he deal with the
> that virtually all public agencies equate the existing group with
> gardens and have a pattern of snubbing any other community garden group
> asks for funding or support? If he wants to bury the hatchet, how might he
> approach the 'big group' and its director - especially when his hopes for
> community gardens are so different? And how can ACGA help in this
> I've told my friend about ACGA and recommended this site. Just watching
> traffic gives me good ideas. I'll pass along any responses to him.
> back in Charlotte, it is starting to warm up. I'm about to order fruit
> ('bye lawn), any body know any good nurseries? Turns out our local Friends
> Meeting may be starting a community garden of their own on a plot of land
> denuded by a developer - I'm going to show them the ACGA video one of
> Thanks, sorry for the long post, tia for the good advice,
> Don Boekelheide
> Charlotte NC
> community_garden maillist - email@example.com
community_garden maillist - firstname.lastname@example.org