Here in S.Florida Sandy soil is king.Challenges are plenty to mention the least:Finding a home for a community garden.That's where you need to start .
From my horticultural education and hands on farming experience, more than twenty years ,of growing organic vegetable and fascilitating classes /workshops at seven community gardens : I came up with a personal TRUE story to share .
Those of you who are contemplating to start their own community gardens .especially in a back yard\,I have a visual to support the narration of my true story.Check it out down below:
My last half an acre started with a 10x2 plot at a community garden .The land was initially a neglected area that was infested by crime and drug dealers.It was provided by a local city 'X".
DADS(Dads Against Drugs were the ones who came up with the idea ) .The idea became a garden with more than 20 active members at its peak.It sprouted and survived and became a food source for working class families and a neighboring soup kitchen that catered to the unemployed and those who silently struggled ..
The garden was pronounced dead when the city decided to convert it to a land fill back in 2009.I lost all my nine years of hard work converting the sand into a FERTILE top soil through composting and hauling truck loads of organic soil . Not to mention the tools,neem trees , equipment garden supplies etc..that were removed/hauled away without me being notified to salvage any!
I grew NEEM and Papaya trees,Organic vegetables. I created a JOB for myself as an URBAN FARMER growing Organic Local food that found so much demand back in 2001 and onwards...in the absence of Organic Farms or CSA back then in the area.
I displayed my greens at local Green Market single handedly with the help of a volunteer from Head Start who beleived back then, just like me ,that Growing our own food could support the local ecconomy by creating jobs versus finding a job.
To convert neglected lands or inefficient lawn grass back/front yards into a productive vegetable garden is by itself a JOB that PRODUCES FOOD.
Community Gardens:It is something that stimulates local economies besides combating crime by diverting the attention into a positive productive paths !I never gave up my passion for organic gardening despite the sbsence of support or any stimulus money to help Urban Farmers.
Now I am gardening at a community garden at a private home owner backyard.It is available for sale.Here we go again .Looking for another home for my garden. I contacted a group of small churches and here I am gardening at the backyards of a church group that feeds the disadvantaged and has a Hunger Project.End of story.
Suggestions and Solutions:
1_Start Small.Make sure that you will not ne evicted suddenly or without a notice.Sign a time for use agreement(Ten years minimum)
2_Stay focussed on a PURPOSE related to growing the food for (Spell out the purpose and protocol in PRINT....)
3_Stear clear away from politics and those who want to use the garden as a protege or a stepping stone to their personal aspirations or hidden agendas.
4_Expect challenges and create out Solutions.Involve more of those who are active in their working hands and muscles on GROWING ,and less of those who enjoy being spectators,commentators etc..Gardening is a HANDS ON experience for those who dare to touch the soil ( Never call it dirt).
5_Get an educated/experienced Organic Urban Farmer on board to give guidance on Organic Urban Farming through Awareness classes.
7_Gardening is a PROCESS.So give yourself time to learn,understand and implement.
8_Start COMPOST piles/bins and learn/implement : recycle-reuse -restore.Know what are the ingredients of the soil you are buying?
9_Exchange /harvest/grow local and NATIVE seeds.If you can not afford organic seeds.Look for Heirloums .Say no to synthetic chemicals &GMO!
10_Share your harvest with a local soup kitchen.Display your harvest at a Green Market/Church market etc...Let Diversity be your choice for community membership or planting practices.Giving back to the community through community gardens is the PRACTICALand PRODUCTIVE way to SAY: THANK YOU!