Dear Auntie, how do I start a community garden?
Fun question! I would love to be a part of this. I love gardening. My family in Zuni used to have the most awesome waffle garden when I was growing up. I remember helping to build up the mud walls for each vegetable with my brothers, cousins, and Aunties. This brings back good memories.
Here are 10 Steps for Starting a Community Garden:
- Organize a Meeting Of Interested People – invite people you think would be interested in helping you get started. You can post up flyers around school and in town, put it up on your facebook page. You can also ask your tribal center to advertise by posting on their social media channels, if they have them. And, if they have a tribal newsletter, see if they’d be willing to put something in there too.
- Form a Planning Committee – from this group, see who’s really interested in helping get this started. Make plans to meet regularly while getting started and have people put the dates in their calendars.
- Identify All Your Resources – see what is already available to you. Is there a space that can be used? Someone with landscaping or gardening experience? Someone who can lend their tools and building supplies? Someone who can help fundraise? Pool all your resources and write down what you have and what you don’t have.
- Need A Sponsor? Your tribal center may have funds for projects like this, so check with them first. If they don’t, you might consider getting a sponsor, or charging membership fees. Churches, schools, private businesses or parks and recreation departments are all possible supporters. Fundraising is always a fun option too as it gets people involved. OR, you can apply for a We R Native mini-grant to help get you started. Just check out the website under “My Impact”.
- Choose A Site – have people start asking around for a good site. You’ll need a place that gets at least six hours of sunshine a day and available water. Check with the city or tribal office to see who owns the land and if there are any legal, lease, or insurance things you need to get help with.
- Organize & Design the Garden – with the space you have, decide how many plots are available and how they will be assigned. Think about walkways, access to water, if you need a storage space for tools. In the future you can think about compost bins, adding benches or picnic tables, a rainproof bulletin board, and planting trees, bushes, or flowers to really make it an inviting place.
- Prepare And Develop The Site – This will be the fun part…getting people to help clear out and organize the site. During your planning meetings decide who will do what: get volunteers, create a volunteer schedule, gather materials, see about food and drink donations, design the lot, provide daycare or make plans for getting kids involved, chairs and shade for elders, waste disposal, take photos and share with community.
- Get Kids & Elders involved – This is where it’s at! Consider creating a special garden just for kids and elders. It would be cool if the elders could help with organizing the planting of traditional foods. You can talk to teachers and the retirement center to see how to get them involved.
- Determine Rules and Put Them In Writing – you want your garden to continue to be a success, so think about the things that will help make this possible, like agreements on: membership dues and collection or periodic fundraising, how money will be used, plot assignments and waiting list, will gardeners share tools or bring their own, who will take care of basic maintenance, will you have regular meetings. Think about posting a ‘rules for using the garden’ sign.
- Help Members Keep In Touch with Each Other – you can do this by creating an email list, social media channels, telephone tree, posting in tribal or local newsletters, hosting regular events – especially with the kids and elders. After all, it’s all about becoming stronger as a community and leading healthy lives together.
I’m so excited for you and your community. This will be an awesome way to get people involved and to create your own memories. Be sure to share photos with us when you can!