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Why Community Gardens?
Community gardening is more than simply a way to grow food. Although similar to backyard gardening, it’s actually much more; there are more responsibilities, but there are also more benefits and rewards.
According to the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) http://www.communitygarden.org community gardening improves people's quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.
What is a Community Garden?
A community garden is a place where people come together to garden. It can be any size and take any shape. Churches, vacant lots, schools and parks are examples of where community gardens can grow. Community gardens can serve many purposes for many people. For some it is a place to grow vegetables, flowers and herbs with friends and neighbors. Sometimes people decide to grow food for local food banks and shelters. Some people participate because they don't have enough sunny space at home. Some like to participate because it promotes a feeling of community with neighbors and provides a way to learn about gardening with others.
Rewards and Responsibilites
When participating in a community garden you can look forward to more than fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs. Rewards include learning new growing techniques, learning about new plants and foods and meeting new people. Community gardening increases opportunities to interact with nature and provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds. Regardless of age, education, language, or ability community gardening is beneficial to all who participate.
Community Gardens are inclusive and welcome all people. A community garden takes the work of many to run well, and everyone is encouraged to participate. A few examples of group responsibilities are maintaining paths, repairing hoses and helping with Spring Registration. Examples of individual responsibilities are keeping your plot and adjoining pathways well tended and clear of debris and weeds, to care for and secure tools after each use, and to respect other gardeners.
The methods utilized in the City of Fayetteville's Community Gardens in the Parks Program have been implemented with great success in other communities. We encourage you to utilize Community Gardens In The Parks documents to assist you in starting a community garden wherever land is available and people are interested in working together to plan and grow gardens.
Community Building through Community Gardens
Other useful information can be found on The University of Missouri Extension website. They have developed an online tool kit for starting community gardens. Their literature states "It is essential to understand that community gardening is about more than growing food, flowers and herbs. Community gardening is also about interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, planning and organizing, group decision-making and the associated rewards and challenges that come with working with people. In short, community gardening is as much about "community" as it is "gardening."
Basic Steps for Starting a Community Garden:
Talk with friends, neighbors and local organizations about the idea.
1. Hold a meeting with anyone interested to determine the feasibility of starting a garden.
2. Find and evaluate potential garden sites.
3. Identify local resources.
4. Establish gardener guidelines and draft the gardener application for starting a garden.
5. Hold a second meeting to discuss the notes from the previous meeting and hear reports.
6. Draft a lease agreement.
7. Develop a site plan.
8. Establish gardener guidelines and draft the gardener application.
9. Prepare and develop the site.
10. Celebrate your success!
Planning, Developing and Managing Community Gardens
Everybody has something to offer. Community gardens are often built and completely maintained by volunteers - the gardeners. A community garden involves a lot of work and organization to be successful. It is important that everyone participates - remember "many hands make light work." Community gardens are most sustainable and long lasting when everyone involved works.
Each garden and its organizers will have specific needs for types of activities and volunteers required to organize these activities. A complete list of descriptions of volunteer positions for community gardens can be found at The Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin.