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Community Gardens

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I've been aware of the community garden concept for a long time, but never gave it much thought until I heard a recent NPR segment on the topic. What caught my attention was the notion that churches often have some of the largest green spaces in urban areas. Also of interest to me in this report were the variety of approaches different people were taking to the operation of community gardens in these spaces.

As a council member of my local church, it struck me that we have a bunch of open space at our church that would be ideal for a large garden. Furthermore, there seem to be several ways we could approach a community garden:

1. We simply make garden space available to neighbors (probably not effective since our neighbors have adequate space and their economic need is not great enough).

2. We install the garden, church members perform all the necessary duties and we then arrange to provide the crops to local food banks or shelters (the "we do it all ourselves" option).

3. We install a garden and have our church elementary school students use it as both a curriculum opportunity and a community service experience ("we do it all ourselves" with an educational benefit).

4. We provide our space to a local organization who has experience with this kind of thing and who has the distribution infrastructure in place to achieve maximum efficacy (we provide the space and let "professionals" do it better than we can ourselves).

Or... maybe the answer is some sort of mix of the above?

I'd be very interested in any direct experiences or knowledge others can share on this subject. I think our congregation could be very interested in pursuing this concept but I also know that we could expend a ton of energy and fall way short of its potential if our execution is flawed from the start. There seem to be a lot of potential pitfalls if we don't do our homework: What crops are most needed by the demographic in need? Are there health department issues? How would the distribution model work? Are there any liability issues? And as a former Planning Commissioner, I have to wonder about zoning issues? and... what if we end up pursuing this in a way that nobody has ever done before in this area? I'd hate for an effort like this to fall prey to unforeseen resistance or bureaucratic complexity...

Eager to hear everyone's thoughts... and would love to find an "expert" or two who might be willing to explore this with us.

Thanks in advance!

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I've been aware of the community garden concept for a long time, but never gave it much thought until I heard a recent NPR segment on the topic. What caught my attention was the notion that churches often have some of the largest green spaces in urban areas. Also of interest to me in this report were the variety of approaches different people were taking to the operation of community gardens in these spaces.

As a council member of my local church, it struck me that we have a bunch of open space at our church that would be ideal for a large garden. Furthermore, there seem to be several ways we could approach a community garden:

1. We simply make garden space available to neighbors (probably not effective since our neighbors have adequate space and their economic need is not great enough).

2. We install the garden, church members perform all the necessary duties and we then arrange to provide the crops to local food banks or shelters (the "we do it all ourselves" option).

3. We install a garden and have our church elementary school students use it as both a curriculum opportunity and a community service experience ("we do it all ourselves" with an educational benefit).

4. We provide our space to a local organization who has experience with this kind of thing and who has the distribution infrastructure in place to achieve maximum efficacy (we provide the space and let "professionals" do it better than we can ourselves).

Or... maybe the answer is some sort of mix of the above?

I'd be very interested in any direct experiences or knowledge others can share on this subject. I think our congregation could be very interested in pursuing this concept but I also know that we could expend a ton of energy and fall way short of its potential if our execution is flawed from the start. There seem to be a lot of potential pitfalls if we don't do our homework: What crops are most needed by the demographic in need? Are there health department issues? How would the distribution model work? Are there any liability issues? And as a former Planning Commissioner, I have to wonder about zoning issues? and... what if we end up pursuing this in a way that nobody has ever done before in this area? I'd hate for an effort like this to fall prey to unforeseen resistance or bureaucratic complexity...

Eager to hear everyone's thoughts... and would love to find an "expert" or two who might be willing to explore this with us.

Thanks in advance!

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Those with economic need may be willing to drive a few block/miles.

Besides, community gardens are not just for those with "economic need." I cut corners and still spend $250+ on my community garden plot at Perkins CG (www.foodshed.net/perkins). Needless to say, I get it all back in enjoyment and veggies.

Try contacting Eric Shalk at 4th Reformed in GR (New City Neighbors). They have an effective CG program.

But the bottom line is that those interested in gardening must know that it requires a) work (weekly at the very least) and b) some expense for supplies and such. Gardening takes time and more than just $$ for seed.

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