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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 
volunteer longevity.

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 
few marriages. 

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 

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman
 <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:  gordonse@one.net (Sharon Gordon)
 Sender:    community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
 To:    cgcslug@hotmail.com (Laura Neale), community_garden@mallorn.com
 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,
 Salad garden
 Bean soup garden
 Potato bar garden
 Salsa garden
 Bread garden (if you don't have a lot of space, grow the expensive add ins
 to the bread and buy the grain)
 Taco/burrito garden
 Stir fry garden
 Halloween garden
 Christmas food or decoration garden
 Fruit salad
 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.
 gordonse@one.n >>

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