Re: organizing a communal space
- Subject: Re: [cg] organizing a communal space
- From: Adam36055@aol.com
- Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 08:43:22 EDT
I like Sharon Gordon's thematic beds and distribution ideas for a garden
community that is geared to serve the gardeners and their families.
Horticulturally, I see it being very workable and a great place to start your garden
layout and planning.
My suggestions are on how to create support in the community for the garden
and to give it a "soul": I believe that the best way to create cohesion in a
community garden is through service to the larger community.
As you are working with young people, you may want to give them the
additional mission and good feeling of helping others, by either a mission of food
security (raising or sharing food with senior centers, soup kitchens unemployed
families, hospices) or by providing a beautiful public garden to a neighborhood
that doesn't have one locally.
We do it half and half at the Clinton Community Garden in NYC, with the
communally maintained front garden open to the whole neighborhood ( via 4,000 +
front gate keys, a sign on the front gate saying that a keyholder should let them
in, and open gate days on the weekend) and the usual raised bed individual
beds in the back garden. Many of the gardeners, including my wife and myself
share our produce with seniors, neighbors and the local soup kitchen. This
does not go one way - the veggie waste from the soup kitchen where I volunteer
goes into our compost and the feeling of being part of the solution is, to
paraphrase that omnpresent credit card commerical, "priceless."
When working with young people, in particular, it is important to engage
their hearts and ideals - helping others and actually meeting the people who are
recipients of their work is an amazing stimulus to both group cohesion and
The high of "knowing that you are making a difference" IS an "addiciton" we
want to hook our young people on . The bag of veggies and fruit for mom is
nice, but but gets eaten. The feeling that you've done something fine for people
who needed it, by working together with others to do it is extraordinary.
And a community garden is a great place to do it - you don't have to join the
At the Clinton Community Garden we created the communal front garden first.
But please note, communal, we've discovered over 25 years, needs leaders,
accountability and manangement by a steering committee elected from the rank and
file. We have a general gardener's meeting in March to which our 125 garden
members (defined by either being a back gardener or key volunteer) vote to elect
a 10 person steering committee which elects it's officers at the first
meeting (chair, secy, volunteer coordinator and treasurer). As a 501(c) (3)
corporation, we are required to keep accurate minutes and records - the plus side is
that we can accept tax-decuctibile gifts, either in kind or in cash, which is
extraordinarily helpful. If you go to our website, <A
HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/">Clinton Community Garden</A> you can see our by-laws
and general rules.
And suprising to most of us, who were or still are lefties of many stripes,
Roberts Rules of Order has preserved our process, several friendships and not a
I realize that this is more organization than a communal youth garden may
want, but some sort of basic governance and leadership is key to the success of
your group. By working with a good leader the young folks will learn how to
lead and take responsibility - take a step forward into what even old time
socialists called the vanguard. What I'm saying is that you will need to guide the
process, keep communicating, while presenting volunteers every opportunity
to grow into leadership positions - learning how to garden well and
self-govern at the same time is hard.
If you keep it fun and fair in your garden you will eventually get
self-governing, good gardeners, but creating the structure in which this can happen is
<A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/">Clinton Community Garden</A>
<< Subj: RE: [cg] organizing a communal space
Date: 6/18/03 3:20:47 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sharon Gordon)
To: email@example.com (Laura Neale), firstname.lastname@example.org
If you could tell us a bit more about how the garden and produce will be
used, we could probably help you more. In the meanwhile a few starter
If the people are going to divide up the produce and take it home to cook
separately, I'd work out a good harvesting and distribution system. Bins
with people's names on them where the produce is divided equally among
people who are putting fairly equal amounts of work into the garden each
year would work as long as people could empty their bin at least once a day
and have it kept cool and shady in the meanwhile.
If the gardening people will be cooking/eating together such as for a
shelter for homeless families, I would grow some specific theme gardens such
Herbs--edible and medicinal, but avoiding the really toxic ones
Flowers (perhaps two gardens, one for edible flowers and one for table
Pizza garden--sauce tomatoes, onions, sweet and hot peppers, basil, oregano,
Bean soup garden
Potato bar garden
Bread garden (if you don't have a lot of space, grow the expensive add ins
to the bread and buy the grain)
Stir fry garden
Christmas food or decoration garden
Sunflower bean teepee
In either case if there is room, I'd start a small orchard, and also grow
something that does well in your area for stakes/arbors, and basketry
If you have more land than you need for all the people's food and garden
utility needs of the people who want to garden (ok, I can dream), some other
fun things might be
Soup kitchen donation garden, senior service project
Regional Native Plants
Food and nonfood plants used by a specific local native tribe
Craft garden such as for paper or soap making
Butterfly and catapillar garden
If one of the purposes is to be able to add another educational theme, you
could have an around the world theme where each plot represents the favorite
foods and flowers of each country or region. It would be important if you
did something like this to have multiethnic teams that rotated among the
plots, so that you didn't have ethnic groups increasing their segregation
through focusing on one plot. I would suggest starting with ethnic groups
of your volunteers plus major groups in your area to draw more people in.
And then seeing what other foodways they are interested in.
If you would like to use it as a trial garden to determine varieties that
grow well in your area, it might work best for each team to be responsible
for a particular fruit or vegetable and have plots devoted to particular
vegetables. The plots could vary in size according to the likes of the
group (more tomatoes than eggplant probably), but it would help to have them
in some sort of standardized unit to make rotation easier.
In any case, it would be important for someone to keep up with a map of the
garden, so there is a good history of what was grown where for the annual
crops each year.
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