I’ve been involved in a delightful project for 17yrs - gardening in a community garden. I came to Second Start Community Garden (SSCG) as a seasoned gardener & plants woman. Quite by luck I came across a notice at the city library for plot rental & ... checked it out. It was really inexpensive - $50 for a 20’x20’ plot for the year and included water and tools to boot. My property in Longmont is too shady for tomatoes, peppers or beans and I didn’t want to grow foodstuffs along a busy street with exhaust fumes constantly infusing edible crops. SSCG is located in central Longmont along a flood plane with no thru-streets - fairly isolated from street traffic - and promised Organic gardening practices - good deal.
Along with the 20’ x 20’ patch of ground to lease for the year came plot neighbors. Gardening is a rather intimate experience for me - working with the plants, the weather patterns, finding refuge from my hectic life. Having plot neighbors were a new element for me. I discovered it helped my isolation as a home-based contractor & mother of 3. Eventually a couple of families from my daughter’s preschool joined SSCG and we had many years raising children along with our vegetables...
Most gardeners I’ve encountered are highly passionate about anything to do with food - growing it, picking it, cooking it, comparing it, criticizing it, scrutinizing political decisions around it & of course EATING it! Some folks had accurate information, some more anecdotal, but what was beautiful to me were the conversations. I have come think of a Community Garden as an ‘Experimental Station’ of sorts. Folks try all sorts of techniques and food varieties and compared notes... what works / doesn’t work / how many #@^%*** weeds & seeds and daily questions about all matter of growing methods from other gardeners. Many gardeners are in it for the solitude & comfort of working with plants and getting good and dirty!
Despite being a group of 45-60 gardeners it is surprising how few times one meets up with others -- this is based on how your gardening schedule meshes with others rather than how friendly one feels.
As a garden community, we’ve learned that building friendships is better done by doing stuff together. So, we have several group work-share sessions throughout the season. We also have fun socials - picnics in the garden plus holiday gatherings.
Community Gardens are not a new thing at all in the world. In England and Europe they may be called ‘allotments’ & achieving a spot can be very competitive. But the point is to enable food production for the home table. It’s the same at SSCG. Our garden was inspired by the late Keith Williamson who, while traveling in Germany saw many allotments and folks growing substantial quantities of foodstuffs for their families. Keith wanted to bring that opportunity to Longmont, CO - & he did. Shortly before his death in 1996 Keith had inspired a coalition of neighbors and the City of Longmont to create Second Start Community Garden - to offer opportunity for those citizens in need of supplemental food with a place to grow their own, become educated in gardening methods for a very modest fee.
Other community gardens have different business models and may suit you better. I have found the volunteer contribution model that SSCG is built on is amazingly resilient and enduring. We are in our 22 year since the City of Longmont worked with a neighborhood coalition inspired by Keith to build the West Garden of SSCG. Folks settle into plots and return year after year growing fresh vegetables but also working together to keep the project going for the future community of gardeners.
For two decades SSCG is/has been 100% managed by member gardeners. All of our expenses are funded by rental fees and donations in kind from the gardeners themselves & members of the Longmont community. We take turns serving on the board of directors which manages all the functions of the garden. Additionally, each plot renter is required to contribute a nominal number of volunteer hours for upkeep of the common areas of garden. We are a 501c-3 non-profit organization and fundraise in any way we can think of for infrastructure remodels or tool/supply procurement. This really takes ‘gardening’ to another level of dedication.
So off I went: Sometimes bringing the dog and baby along,
sometimes running away from the baby and household to my refuge -- I garden as much for the exercise as for the produce. It’s a great work-out and if you add bicycle commuting on top of it you get a real tap at an environmentally clean existence.
Now, 17yrs into this project my children are grown & I bring my grandchildren out to plant the peas, check on the carrots and munch the raspberries.
January, 2019 by Derice Pfefferkorn