How to Start a Community Garden
Community Garden Organization and Sponsorship
The first step in creating a community garden is to round up support. Even with careful planning and the best intentions, your garden will fail without a reliable group of committed people. Canvass your neighborhood to find out who's interested. Then, schedule a series of meetings that everyone can attend.
At these meetings, elect officers who will be in charge of tasks like communication, organization and financial management. Discuss your goals and plans, and answer any questions, like:
- What will you grow?
- Will you grow food or focus on ornamental gardening?
- Do you want an organic garden?
- What will members' responsibilities be?
- Will the garden be one big group effort, or will participants get their own plots?
Once you've answered these and any other questions, the next step is to draw up a contract that lists the group's rules or bylaws. Outline what's expected of members, and delineate any consequences for not meeting those expectations. Specify dues or membership fees, and note anything else you feel is important for your group's purpose. You may also want to address limit of liability, which puts a cap on the compensation a person could collect in the event of injuries or damages related to the project. You may also want to purchase liability insurance to protect yourself and your organization. You can find an example of bylaws in the links at the end of this article.
Once you've organized your members, you can get down to business. Your garden will almost certainly require a regular source of funding for tools, gardening supplies, water bills, trash pick-up and other expenses. Funding could come from a number of sources. Members can pay regular dues or hold fundraisers like yard sales or car washes. Or, you could seek sponsors.
Sponsors are often local businesses -- you can approach them and ask for their support. Be sure to describe the benefits your garden will bring to the community or to the business itself. Reliable sponsors can help not only by donating money or materials, but also by lending your garden moral support and making members feel accountable to something more than themselves.
With a little digging, you might also find organizations in your state or community that offer grants, gardening materials or helpful guidance to startups like yours. Depending on your area and your garden's focus, you might also qualify for federal assistance from government organizations like the USDA Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program or the EPA Environmental Education Grants. Several seed companies, such as Asgrow Seed and the America the Beautiful Fund, also offer seed donations to community or school garden projects.
Once you've rounded up the troops and secured some funding, it's time to decide on a location. On the next page, you'll learn how to find and secure a good site for your project.