This is my new Big Project. I got tired of not having any Real Life people to talk to about gardening stuff. Not that I have no one, but everyone I know who is really interested lives too far away to get together on a regular basis. As in, usually, several states away. I started looking for local gardening groups to join, but they all seemed more interested in flowers and landscaping. Flowers are pretty, but I want to grow FOOD! I decided to try and start my own.
It's a lot harder than you'd think. Granted, I'm really only into my second day of trying to get the word out, but so far it's been terribly disheartening. Stores don't let you put up signs in their windows like they used to. A few have "community bulletin boards," but those are usually a) tucked away in a corner where no one notices them, and b) so crowded with other announcements that you'll be lucky if yours is noticed amongst all the visual noise. the exceptions were Whole Foods, where they date-stamp all announcements and rotate them out when they get old; Starbucks, where they only allow non-profits to post, and it's right in the front of the store; and the public library, which has theirs in a glass case so they can decide whether the posting is appropriate. Thankfully mine passed muster!
Here's what I'm aiming for:
I'd like to be able to get together with real people, in real life, on a semi-regular basis to discuss food gardening and related topics. While I want the focus to remain on food production, I don't want things too narrow either. There are a lot of subjects (sustainability, Peak Oil,reduced energy usage, Big Ag, conventional vs. organic, etc) that tend to lie on the fringes of backyard food production, and I expect anyone interested in this group will have opinions on one or more of these issues. I'd like it to be a place we can discuss these ideas as well.
I'm hoping to establish a community of gardeners who are willing to help each other out, not only with advice, but with the occasional "work party" for someone breaking ground on a new garden. I'd also like to establish enough trust and goodwill within the group to feel comfortable sharing tools with people just starting out. For example, I doubt I'd feel comfortable loaning my pressure canner to someone who posted an ad on Craigslist, but I'd be happy to lend it to a member of a group I was part of. Someone might have a rototiller they only use once a year, or a Weed Whacker they don't need on a particular weekend. Sharing material resources like this will help us all.
Finally, I would like to give something back to the community. There are many low-income families where the adults have jobs, and finding the time to install a garden and learn how to tend it may be out of their reach. I see this as the classic "Teach a man to fish" opportunity. These families may not have time to install a garden on their own, but they would probably have time to tend one if they had help setting it up. This would provide almost-free healthy food to the people who need it most. Also, there are many disabled people who think that their disability prevents them from growing their own food. I'd like us to eventually be able to help plan and install appropriate gardens (e.g. wheelchair-height raised beds) for people who thought they couldn't have one, and to help with regular maintenance (weeding, watering, etc) to those who have gardens already, but whose health conditions now prevent them from maintaining them.
I've never done something like this before, so I really hope someone who knows more than I do about establishing a non-profit will join and help out! In the meantime I'm just trying to get exposure. I've set up a Facebook page and a YahooGroup, and even though my primary goal is to make local Real Life connections, I also recognize the value of long-distance online participation, discussion, and advice, so I hope people will join the online groups just to talk gardening and local food production! I'll have links to both groups in the sidebar of the blog. Any help I can get in making this an active community, both online and IRL will be greatly appreciated!