Sunday, February 3, 2013

Relationships are Tough- Even Gardening Ones

The greatest variable that any project will ever face is the group of people that work to make it happen.  Each person has a different idea about how the project will develop, how much time it will require of the individuals involved, and how personally invested they intend to become.  Next, add the production of food. This endeavor has as many approaches as the sun has rays.  The challenge of taking ten or more people and developing a workable plan when creating a community garden is not one to take lightly.  In this post I will look at some of the issues involved and try to give some enlightenment as to how each works in the garden.

  1. Land Wars- It is certain that you will have a finite amount of land to use for your project.  The decisions regarding how to divide and use the space will be of major importance.  Will the entire space be used as one large garden or will it be divided into individual plots.  How much land will be used for paths and utilities and how will these be maintained.  If there are individual plots will they be the same size, can an individual garden more than one plot? If it will be one large garden how much space will be given to each crop?  Who decides?
  2. He said, She said- If you have individual plots you set your self up for boundary disputes.  His weeds/plants are shading her tomatoes.  Her weeds/plants are encroaching on her plot. In a large garden you might face. She left the water on, he said he was going to get the cabbages weeded this weekend and look what happened!  Trust me communication is important!
  3. Disappearing Acts- Hey what ever happened to so and so?  Has anyone seen them?  Do you know if they went on vacation?  People will disappear during the growing season.  I don't know if they are abducted by aliens or simply overwhelmed by how much work it takes to bring a garden from planting to harvest.  Trust me they will disappear and they will probably not answer your phone calls! Your goal is to check in with everyone as often as possible, offer encouragement, and provide realistic expectations.
Through the five years that I have been doing this I have learned that our garden opperates most effectively as a cooperative community garden.  This means that we all help to tend one large garden and we share out the harvest.  If one person leaves we do not have a plot that is slowly reclaimed by weeds.  We post what jobs need to be done and individuals complete them and sign them off.  We meet monthly to discuss what needs to be done and answer questions.  Yes, people do leave and we miss them. However, because we work the garden as a group, when someone has vacation time it does not effect the overall operation of the garden.  We have come to know each other much more intimately because we must communicate to keep the garden running smoothly. In short by growing our garden this way we have built a community!
These are a group of wonderful volunteers that came out to help us harvest for the local food bank!