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RE: Insurance

  • Subject: RE: [cg] Insurance
  • From: "Jack Hale" <jackh@knoxparks.org>
  • Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 11:04:39 -0400
  • Importance: Normal

Must be time to send out my little piece on community garden insurance once
again.  Here you go.
By way of update, I don't know whether anyone is pursuing national coverage
at this time.
Jack Hale

Insurance for community gardens

For several years, the board of the American Community Gardening Association
has been working to provide liability insurance for member gardens.  Surveys
of members suggested that obtaining such insurance was a priority for many
gardens.  We did provide access to coverage during 1998, but less than a
dozen gardens took advantage of the offer.  In 1999, the insurance company
was unwilling to renew the coverage, and we were unable to find another
carrier.  Although we have continued to seek a carrier, we continue to be
unsuccessful.  While the search continues, here is what I have been telling
members who are seeking insurance.

1. Liability insurance protects the organization that owns it or some other
entity (like a land owner) who is "named as additional insured" on the
policy.  It protects gardeners or volunteers indirectly only if the insured
organization stands between them and a potential lawsuit.  It does not
protect individuals from legal action, nor does it necessarily pay
individuals for injuries or damage that occur at a garden.  Most gardens
have insurance because they have an organization to protect or because some
other entity requires coverage in order for the garden to exist.

2. Usually, individual gardens seeking liability coverage will pay a high
price.  Just as group health insurance is much less expensive than
individual coverage, insurance purchased by a larger organization to cover a
multitude of risks will be less expensive per coverage than the same
insurance purchased piecemeal.  Therefore, if you are a single garden
suffering from sticker shock, the best avenue may be to ask a larger
organization that already has liability coverage to sponsor the garden.
Such organizations might include community groups, churches,
horticultural/agricultural organizations, or anything else that might work
in your locale.

3. Often it is a city or town providing land for a garden that is requesting
insurance.  They usually have a "risk manager" whose job is to protect the
municipality against all risk.  Whenever the town enters into a
relationship, that relationship is passed before the risk manager, and the
risk manager almost always says "buy insurance" to protect the town.  But
towns always have lots of insurance.  They engage in lots of risky business.
Adding a community garden to their list of risks will have almost no impact
on their overall risk and on the cost of their insurance.  It becomes a
political issue and should be treated as such.  If the town wants to support
community gardening, the risk is trivial; if the town doesn't want to
support community gardening, it is easier to say "buy insurance" than "we
don't like you."
A side issue that arises in some cases is whether the gardens are public.
In Berkeley, California, the city wanted to require insurance and also
require that the gardens be open to the public.  People who don't want to
support gardens compare them to parks that are ostensibly open to everybody
all the time.  They point out that community gardens have fences and gates
and private plots.  More politics.  Perhaps compare your garden to a
football stadium.  Very risky activity going on there, and fully supported
by the town!  Anybody can go and watch when there is a game on, but hardly
anybody gets to play.  Which is more exclusive, a garden or a sports field?
Remember that anybody can walk by and look at the garden.  You might even
schedule some times when the garden is open for public enjoyment.  This does
suggest, however, that gardeners need to design and maintain their gardens
in ways that truly do enhance their neighborhoods.

4. Insurance is a local business, governed to some extent by state law and
regulation.  Although there is a certain amount of uniformity and insurance
companies operate across state lines, your experience with coverages and
costs may be quite different from those in a neighboring state.  If you have
to buy insurance, a creative and responsive local agent can be very
important.  Remember that there is a good chance they haven't insured a
garden before and they will have to figure out how to do it.  Here in
Connecticut, we started out with an insurance agent who decided gardens were
like vacant lots, which tend to attract inappropriate uses.  Premiums were
based on street frontage and they were high.  Strangely enough, our largest
garden, which had no street frontage, was insured for nothing, while one of
our smaller gardens on a corner lot carried a high premium.  Our current
agent, which specializes in insurance for non-profit social service
organizations, decided gardens were like social service programs and did a
more general analysis of risk.  Our premiums are now quite low.

5. If gardeners or garden officers are concerned about personal risk
(i.e.-potential for being sued as individuals due to their involvement in a
garden), the best solution is probably "umbrella coverage."  People can
usually obtain this for a relatively small premium as an add-on to
homeowner's or renter's insurance.  Talk to your agent.

6. I am not an expert on insurance.  Don't take this as professional advice
from me or from the American Community Gardening Association.  At best, this
is an indication of insurance issues as they have been faced by community
gardens throughout the U.S. (not much info on Canada).  You need to work out
your own local situation.  ACGA will continue to seek a national insurance
provider.  I will be happy to talk to anyone interested in exploring that.
I will also attempt to respond to questions about the information provided
here and specific insurance issues.

Jack N. Hale
Executive Director
Knox Parks Foundation
75 Laurel Street
Hartford, CT 06106
f 860/951-7244

-----Original Message-----
From: community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
[mailto:community_garden-admin@mallorn.com]On Behalf Of Kathleen Carter
Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2001 11:36 PM
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: [cg] Insurance

I am starting a community garden and have run up against a roadblock;
liability insurance. Do I have to become an entity or is there another
way to do it?
Thanks for any help or advice you can give me.
k carter  sierra@svn.net

community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com

community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com

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