Community vegetable gardens are not necessarily a new concept, but they have recently become more popular as the economy continues to slump and with people becoming more conscious of food storage, preservation and consumption. In lower income places such as areas within New Mexico, as much as 16 percent of the state participates in community gardens to share food supplies and as a way to grow together culturally. To date, the most popular types of community vegetable gardens are those which are family and individually run, community run by churches and other organizations and farm stands. In fact, this concept is so popular that some states are involving imprisoned individuals in the process, having them volunteer at agencies or on plots of land to help sustain the production of the gardens.
How to Start a Community Garden
It is best for those who want to bring this concept to fruition to organize some sort of organization or committee because it can be a delicate and involved process. Before starting a communal project such as this, many things need to be considered and there is a lot of organization that needs to take place.
Some of the things to examine first are:
- Does my location have a need for a community vegetable garden?
- What type of garden will it be? Fruits, vegetables or flowers? Or a combination of all?
- Who will benefit from the garden? Neighbors? Local homeless shelters? Children?
- Where would a proper garden site be located?
- Who will handle the administrative tasks such as money and seed ordering?
It is likely that wherever you choose for the location, there will be a land fee involved and you may need to secure a lease agreement. You will also want to inquire whether you will need to purchase any insurance on the property in case it is vandalized or Mother Nature destroys what is planted there.
The area that is chosen needs to be somewhere that gets a steady stream of sunlight so that the things that are planted can grow properly. Any area that doesn’t get at least 6 to 8 hours of unblocked sunlight per day should not be considered. Along those same lines, also consider the water supply. Does the area get much rainfall or is there a nearby supply of water so that it can be manually tended to daily? Also consider who will take on this responsibility.
You will also want to conduct some research on the area to make sure it hasn’t been or is not likely to be a contaminated area as this will affect how your crops grow and the edibility of your foods.
Taking Care of the Site
Once the location is chosen you will want to also assign a committee that will help with reading the site for plantation. This includes tasks such as cleaning the vicinity, pulling weeds if there are any, gathering any materials you will need and stocking the shed with materials.
Someone should also mark the individual plots and assign particular areas of which plots will be designated to which food types. The outer parameter should also be decorated with shrubs, flowers and bushes as it makes it more attractive and promotes new growth.
Organization once the community garden gets up and running is essential. You have to decide who will be in charge of the garden and to what extent. The best way to do this, particularly if the garden is large, is to assign specific plots to different members or families. This way no one person is overwhelmed and each plot is accounted for.
Also decide if there will be dues associated with the plots. Dues will help pay for damaged supplies like shovels and hoes, but will also keep an influx of monies to replenish supplies like seeds, chemicals if needed and other associated costs of having a garden.
It is also good to sort out basic rules and guidelines such as will the children within the communities be participating and if so, what will their responsibilities be? Some of the tools used in gardening are quite expensive so talk with the organization and decide whether everyone will be sharing tools or is everyone individually responsible for their own? The same goes for seedling supplies-does everyone purchase their own or will it be a group effort?
Decide if your organization will hold monthly or weekly meetings to discuss such things as strategies for vandalism, budgeting, dividing of responsibilities, profits and in general the well being and success of the community garden. Also place in writing what the regulations are should someone quit or abandon one of their plots; who will take over the plots and will there be additional fees or buy out charges should this happen.
Before setting up a garden it is a good idea to meet with local officials so that you are educated on all the bylaws and can learn about restrictions and insurance ahead of time so production isn’t put on hold if you run into a problem.
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