In my work experience as an URBAN ORGANIC FARMER here in S.Florida, I have co-founded and closely helped out in establishing four community gardens.Two of those gardens cease to exist .
I like to share my observations and feedbacks to help out in the future revitalization and remediation work process to organic community gardens .
A-POLITICS IN THE COMMUNITY GARDEN:
Personally , I advocate non-political approach to growing ORGANIC FRUITS and VEGETABLES in community gardens.Unfortunately , the situation at the ground is otherwise.I noticed that some of those gardens I tended attracted members who were POLITICALLY MOTIVATED in the first place.Their work mainly at the garden was only to extend /show their political aura or to enrich their resumes and social status as community organizers or activists .
This trend also entrenched some active or retired officials in addition to local figures of some organizations to partake just to appeal to the media and local public opinion.Others were involved through educational institutions /non-profit organizations etc , to apply for grants,bolster their community stance , keep the influence of donated GMO seeds and seedlings- FREE soils derived from treated sludge - fertilzers and pesticides ammendments-active at the garden .Little actual gardening work was done by some of those occasional members- visitors-spectators, who mostly show up at events.
The spirit of VOLUNTARY COMMUNITY SERVICE through productive planting and harvesting of ORGANIC PRODUCE should be the main MOTIVE.Donating to local soup kitchens and needy families must be emphassized especially NOW.Encouraging the membership of struggling families and the financially disadvataged should be a priority in enlisting members.Diversity in membership should be equally stressed along with diversity in gardening.Social dialogue through pot locks and workshop events must be introduced to enrich the communication between diverse groups of the neighboring community.Solutions to the challenges remain impotent without actual involvement with the HANDS ON learning process:ORGANIC SOIL - CLASSES and WORKSHOPS-POTLUCKS-HARVESTING and SHARING of HARVEST-SEEDS EXCHANGE.Active members must adhere to the rules and regulations set for the garden.
B-Allocating and preserving more lands for growing organic produce locally.
Some of those community gardens took decades to build their organic soil and with a change of heart are destroyed to be new locations for developments or other use.
Advocating for the placement of new laws to protect and preserve FERTILE agricultural lands / urban community gardens that have irreplacable organic top soil.
C-Lack of Local Programs to EDUCATE and Graduate: Organic Community Gardeners /ORGANIC URBAN FARMERS at the local school level and beyond.
Attention should be redirected from the current home-owners mentality of growing ornamentals and shrubs using fertilizers and pesticides for the purposes of landscaping only.So many home owners are having their homes forclosed and now are renting or are displaced.
Vouchers for continuing education and local community plotsshould be issued. Jobs for organic urban farmers should be created and promoted through educational and vocational local programs.Growing food must be the new mood instead of growing JUST GRASS!
D-Lack of support ,recognition and appreciation to organic farmers.
Migrant farmers with their illegal status has driven the farming jobs down to its bottom.No respect and discremination are rampant.wages and benefits are so low.Organic Community Agriculture Educational programs are non-existing below the university level.Big Agri-Business domination of the market .
The community garden can be the new venue for raising the awareness level by providing organic horticultural educational programs and marketing opportunities to small farmers or community urban gardeners.A FREE green market at a Community Garden to sell and display produce can be used as an example in supporting the local economy through marketing of locally grown produce .This kind of market exists in Europe, but at a different location:The village markets or -Thursday markets.The now available farmers /green markets levy high fees and charges here ,in general . who affords to sell at those markets are merchants of grocerystores who rent spaces to sell conventional imported produce from other countries or different states.The farmer has been replaced by the merchant at the farmers market at least here in S.Florida ,with some exceptions , offcourse!