This coming week, I'll be making a run to Atlanta in my little-truck-that-could for a community garden educational trip.* While in Atlanta, I plant to a) visit metro-area community gardens, b) attend a "Train the Trainer" workshop co-hosted by the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) and the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), and, last, c) I'll meet with Fred Conrad, Community Garden Coordinator for the Food Bank.
The training, I'm especially excited about because 40-70 other community gardening activists from all over the southeast will be in attendance. I anticipate it will be a great chance to share stories, questions, challenges and successes. As I continue volunteering with Damayan and supporting Assistant City Manager, Jay Townsend's office in investigating the possibilities of community gardens on city land, time and time again I am reminded that having locally accessible community garden models from which to develop ideas is super helpful.
Speaking of local models, I've recently been in touch with leaders of three local community garden gems: the FAMU Community Garden (on Orange Ave), a new Community Garden in Havana, and City Square Community Garden in Apalachicola.
FAMU Community Garden
In early December, I met with Damon Miller, the coordinator for the FAMU garden. The garden's been open since 1974, has been in three locations, and Mr. Miller has been apart of the garden since its inception-- first as a gardener himself. The plots are 40x40, but due to the ever-growing wait-list, they are considering sub-dividing some of the plots into 20x20. There's one gardener who's 86; two have been gardeners faithfully since '74. Typically, the only time they have theft problems is right around the holidays when folks come in and "go grocery shopping so they can have that big meal." Mr. Miller's full of stories. His phone number is 561-2095 if you have questions or want to sign up for a plot.
Havana Community Garden
Yesterday, after reading about Havana's new community garden in the Tallahassee Democrat, I got in touch with Bob Bruggner who's organizing the garden. They're getting started this spring. It's right along US-27 on the way into town. Bob tells me the food bank, the city of Havana, a handful of churches and youth groups, and a host of individuals who have already signed up are coming together to make it happen. There are going to be 38 15ftx15ft plots that cost $30 annually, and "space is VERY limited." January 12th and 26th, they're having community meetings for interested parties. Take a look at their website or call Bob (850.539.9421) for more info and/or to reserve your plot.
Perhaps the most interesting part of my conversation with Bob was how he organized a field trip of Havana City Officials, food bank leaders, and other Havanans to visit Apalachicola's City Center Community Garden. At the garden, the Havana leaders met with Apalachicola gardeners and city officials who had already walked through the process of establishing their garden. Upon returning to Havana, Bob related, everyone was on board.
Apalachicola City Square Community Garden
In light of Bob Bruggner's words of praise for the Apalachicola garden, I asked for a contact. Karla Ambos, he told me, was the woman I wanted to get in touch with. Indeed. Having just emailed yesterday, she replied with a full history of the City Square Community Garden and an invitation to visit: "If you can give me enough advance notice, I'll do my best to have the mayor and city administrator available to speak with you also." A get it done kind of lady.
The idea for the community garden came from a discussion about beautifying the city and the Food Pantry's need for fresh vegetables. Someone mentioned that it would probably be cheaper to grow their own than to find more funding. They broke ground in November 2008. Currently, there are 54 gardeners who share 29 raised beds. Additionally, there are two open tilled plots mananged by the food pantry and 50 Charter School students. email citysquaregarden at gmail dot com if you want to know more.
*Thanks to Heart of the Earth for financing my trip to Atlanta, so I might bring back, share, and further local efforts to "live sustainably and harmoniously within the web of life" by supporting regrowth of our local food systems.
within the web of life