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Monday, January 28, 2013

Continuing Threats to Community Gardens

Once again we have been reminded that there are people out there who don't think community gardens are a good idea.  The news of two different threats this past week to community gardens in Philadelphia and Camden make us realize that community gardens, even ones that have been in existence for many years face threats from a variety of sources. In the Camden case it is the state of New Jersey. While not a typical community garden, the Camden Children's Garden, in existence since 1999, is run by the non- profit Camden Garden Club, has 100,000 visitors a year and runs environmental and nutritional programs on the site which started as a "horticultural playground". Aren't community gardens horticultural playgrounds?

The state wants to transfer the land to the private aquarium on the adjacent property, so there may be a monetary motive involved. The Camden Children's Garden has not had an agreement or a lease with the state even though there is a butterfly house and a gazebo on the property. What did the state of New Jersey think was going on here? In addition to the Children's garden, the Camden City Garden Club has been assisting Camden residents interested in starting community gardens with tools, seeds, plants and workshops since 1985.

This news came just days after a report that the Philadelphia City Council backed away from a plan to limit community gardens and urban agriculture in mixed use commercially zoned areas. Gardeners and urban farmers would have to get approval from the zoning board to operate in these mixed use areas. It took a campaign by Philadelphia community gardeners and garden supporters to fight this threat and convince the City Council to change their thinking. The fact that both cities have a surplus of vacant land makes these two stories seem even more unbelievable.

The situation in Philadelphia should never have gotten to the point that required gardeners to have to fight this threat. However there are are always politicians and bureaucrats that see community gardeners as a threat or as a cash cow.  It seems like no amount of good will that community gardeners earn by providing volunteer time to clean up and bring a positive use to land abandoned or neglected by the city can convince some people of the benefits of community gardens. Thankfully most can be convinced as they were in Philadelphia by campaigns that win over public opinion.  Hopefully the situation in Camden will be resolved like the one across the Delaware.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Raise Some Funds for Your Community Garden

This is the perfect time to raise money for a community garden. Even with our warmer than ever winter, there is not a lot to do in the garden and many days are too cold, too damp or too windy to spend time in the garden. So it is a great time for planning or ordering seeds or plants and finding the money to pay for all of those plans and plants. A few grant announcements have come my way in the past week which I will pass along.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has partnered with the Darden Restaurants Foundation to make available grants  for community gardens that benefit families and individuals of low-income status. This would be a great opportunity to obtain funds to help build or expand a community garden that fosters stewardship and outdoor activity while donating the produce to those in need. The grants will range from $2,500 to $7,500 and will be awarded to 10 communities.

The application deadline is Wednesday, February 6, 2013 and you can find out more about the grant and benefits of community gardens here.

All About the Fruits and Veggies Grant Program
Sponsor: Jamba Juice & the National Gardening Association

Please contact the National Gardening Association's Kids Gardening for more information and to apply for this funding:

The All About the Fruits and Veggies grant program will provide youth garden initiatives with gardening supplies, curriculum, soil amendments, and plants to help create engaging nutrition and gardening experiences.

Awards of $500 worth of materials will be granted to forty youth and school garden programs. Schools, community organizations, and nonprofit gardening programs with at least fifteen children between the ages of 3 and 18 are eligible to apply.

Deadline: February 18, 2013

For New York City groups:
Have a Great Idea for a Community Project?

Through their Community Grants , Citizens Committee awards grants of $500-$3,000 to resident-led groups to work on community and school improvement projects addressing issues that they identiy as important to them.

Projects that have been funded in the past are as varied as community gardening, theater and fine arts, nutrition awareness, composting, beautification, tenant organizing, youth education, physical fitness, public safety, and more.

Read their grant guidelines and download the application . The application deadline is January 31, 2013


These are just a few grant opportunities but there are many more possibilities. Most areas have garden clubs that disburse funds for different types of projects including community gardens. There are local sources including local related businesses like garden centers, hardware stores, banks or grocery stores. The important first step is to decide what you want to do with the funds. It could be money for events, a toolshed, tools to put in the shed, printing costs for flyers, plants or seeds. Create a letter stating the need and the expected results. Now you are ready to find those funds. It may not happen right away but from my experience planning ahead and being ready with the ask means that when the opportunity presents itself, you can take advantage.

A good resource to help if you are just getting started or want to gather good information to add to your letter or grant proposal is a new fact sheet from the Local Government Commission, Cultivating Community Gardens .  The folks who get the help are the ones who ask. So don't be afraid to ask.