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Re: Agency gardens....I need advice

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Agency gardens....I need advice
  • From: "Deborah Mills" <deborah@greencure.org>
  • Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 13:54:18 -0700

Hello Shelly,
In a nut shell, there needs to be a paid staff person that operates the garden if it is an agency run operation. I noticed in your dialogue that the person in charge of the garden program you are speaking of was an intern. Was she a paid staff person with enough hours to complete the work load?
Why I ask is because I use to be the garden manager of an agency garden. When I first started, I had 5 hours a week to manage a 3-acre organic garden site. My work load was all the maintenance of the general areas (which we had a lot of since we where on an Edison easement. The equipment I had was a shovel, hoe, wheel burrow, and any volunteers I could muster up), clear vacant plots, sign-up new gardeners, return phone calls daily, monthly billing (which was stupid) and anything else that needed to be done. When I left my hours were at 10 per week. I was still volunteering approximately 15 to 20 hours a week and the agency did not only recognized the fact that it took longer but they did not appreciate my donated time into the project.
What I did then was to start my own non-profit corporation and now I perform the work as a volunteer (with a lot of help from many individuals)on a piece of land we secured. I have streamed lined the process of operations and we run efficiently without the hitches of government. I would rather do this for the gardeners as a volunteer rather than an agency that doesn't have the vision of what these garden green spaces mean to the community.
The short-comings I see with agency gardens are:
Sometimes the individuals (higher up on the food chain) don't realize that a garden is a living, growing thing. It is an on-going proposition.
They sometimes forget that a community garden isn't just renting a piece of land to an individual, it is about community, and that takes time. It is a major PR position.
To me it seems that this topic has was always been unspoken. No one really admits to this and they assume everyone will volunteer their time. With some garden projects this works (if there are enough gardeners who are willing to do so) but not always. If agencies realize that this is a viable reason (paid staff for operations not only education) then there wouldn't be such a turn-over of people on these projects. A good professional Garden Manger should be compensated for their work like any other profession.
I hope this helps. If you find the solution please share it with all of us.
Deborah Mills
Green Cure, Inc.
I'm Shelly, coordinator of community gardens in Toledo, and fairly new to this listserve.   In Toledo we have around 40 community gardens of different types--neighborhood gardens, children's gardens, donation-type gardens, rehab center gardens, etc.  Some gardens are well established, and all have either a volunteer leader or a staff of an agency who coordinates the garden.  We support these gardens by rototilling them, providing educational programs, and coordinating the distribution of resources, donations, volunteers, etc. 
One problem that I would love to get some input from others on is how to have more stable agency gardens.  One agency that is very supportive is our local housing authority.   There are gardens at most sites and they support them in many different ways including building raised beds as needed, hauling compost that we have donated, assigning staff to transport residents to garden meetings, etc. 
Other agencies flounder and struggle year after year because of staff changes, changes in clients/participants, etc.  Yesterday a visit to the Cherry Street Mission was a  big disappointment.  CSM is a homeless shelter, soup kitchen & rehab center in downtown Toledo.  They have had a garden for 6 years now, and some years it has been fabulous.  It was questionable whether or not they would even have a garden this year because of a change in executive directors.  I "talked them into it".  Maybe that's not the best thing to do but over the years we have invested alot into that garden--loads and loads of compost, staff time, fruit trees, grape arbor, etc., so I don't want to let the garden go (without a fight).  I found out yesterday that they had changed the person in charge of the garden (an intern in the rehab program).  The garden itself is a mess, and no one there can tell a cucumber plant from a tomato plant.  In order to save that garden this year, it will take alot of staff time on our part (plus I have a volunteer available a couple of hours a week.)  We need to get the rototiller in there and till the "lost cause" areas, and hold their hands through summer plantings and garden maintenance.  And suppose the exec. director has a change of heart next year and nixes the garden...?  I welcome ideas of how to better work with agencies who have gardens. 
We are stardust  .  .  . we are golden  .  .  . and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.
Shelly Collins
Toledo GROWs Manager
Toledo Botanical Garden
5403 Elmer Drive
Toledo, Ohio  43615

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