-Start a COMMUNITY
Volunteers water plants at a local elementary school’s Garden Day. A community garden network can help spread the word about workdays like this, which will bring in more volunteers from a variety of places. This also helps get the word out about the gardens to the larger community.
High Country Community
Boone, NC – Watauga County
The High Country Community of Gardens supports gardens and food outreach programs in Northwest North Carolina. Along with traditional community gardens, this network also includes gardens located at service agencies, churches, and schools. The Community of Gardens effort helps coordinate supplies, materials, volunteers, produce distribution, training, education and more:
Tool & Seed Shares
The Community of Gardens maintains a list of tools and seeds that gardens can borrow. If a garden needs a tool that is not on the list, the network will try to find it. Because the network’s name is recognizable to local businesses, they can often get tools and seeds donated or purchased at a discount price. For example, at the end of the season many larger businesses throw away expiring seeds, but they are willing to donate them when asked. Businesses can write this off as a donation because the network is part of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA), a nonprofit.
The network organizes workshops based on topics the gardeners would like to learn about, such as seed saving or garden planning. The network can offer these workshops for free by recruiting speakers who are willing to donate their time or provide training without charge, such as Cooperative Extension agents.
The network matches volunteers with gardens based on location, availability, and interest. This makes it easier for volunteers to find a garden where they can volunteer, without having to search the internet or drive around looking for gardens.
Gardens can drop off produce to donate, and Community of Gardens will deliver it to a local food outreach programs.
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Here’s how you can start a network in your own community:
Host an Interest Meeting: Start by inviting local gardeners to an interest meeting. Share the word through clubs, Cooperative Extension, and flyers. Ask people what they want from the network and what they are currently doing in their gardens.
Determine what You’ll Coordinate: Find out what’s most needed – volunteers, tools and supplies are a good place to start.
Become “Official”: Developing your own name and logo will make it easier to tell people about your group. The name can be as simple as “Your Town’s Community Garden Network,” and you can create a logo for free on websites like Canva. It is often easier for businesses to give donations if they are requested on official letterhead.
Connect with Resources: NC Cooperative Extension provides many great free gardening resources. You can also connect with local food pantries to donate produce and local churches, clubs, and schools to recruit volunteers.