Every community garden is different. In some, people work assigned plots for themselves. In others, everyone works on everything. That is the model for Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C., where the ministry goes beyond gardening.
At Highland Church, a core group manages the garden, guidelines detail the working structure and several people have key roles:
- Garden coordinator – oversees all aspects of the garden
- Secretary – maintains the log of hours worked, contact information from registration forms and meeting minutes
- Treasurer – records donations and payments of annual $10-per-family gardening fees
- Harvest donation tracker – records pounds of food given by gardeners
- Watering coordinator – keeps the watering volunteer sign-up sheet and ensures weekly watering occurs
- Communicator – informs gardeners, prepares updates for the church and handles publicity
- Pickling coordinator – takes orders and directs pickling of okra, cucumbers and salsa for fundraising
- Saturday coordinators – direct Saturday workday activities.
"There are no mistakes in the garden, just learning experiences," said Cullen Whitley, founding garden coordinator.
"Our garden is a busy place," added church member and gardener Donna Wolcott. Of 102 gardeners in 2014, 37 were vested (worked more than 10 hours and were eligible to use some of the harvest for personal use). "We donated over a ton of produce to Plant a Row for the Hungry and ESL gardeners," she said.
ESL Wednesdays in the Garden began in 2013, Wolcott explained. English-language learners stay after class, eat a light lunch, have a short English lesson dealing with the garden and then spend time gardening. In 2014, 56 students from 19 countries participated.
Many helpful online sites offer advice for establishing community gardens. One is www.thevegetablegarden.info/planting-schedules. Other resources are local land-grant university extension offices and state departments of agriculture that can provide for soil testing.
"The best resource of all," Wolcott said, "is someone who enjoys teaching others how to grow food."
Adapted from an article at www.highlandumc.org.