Friday, July 5, 2013

Leaving a Garden Space

Some of you may know I've been gardening with a local church for the past couple of years.
I was looking to start a community garden in my town, and the local Ag Extension gal heard from the church group that they were trying to start a community garden. So she connected us, and I got on board, thinking I could help them with their project, and save myself the trouble of finding a bit of city park or corporation land.
I've had internal misgivings from the beginning. I thought, "I'm supporting a church, even if it is indirectly. Am I really comfortable with that?"
And at first I was comfortable with it. They had me and another gardener that weren't church members, and the level of proselytizing was low, and based mostly in one-on-one conversations, and I know, meant as kindly outreach. They were serving community members, and there was talk of sending the excess veggies through the local food pantry.

The food pantry never saw anything. Instead, time after time, the excess was distributed among gardeners and church members.  This bothered me a little, but I knew at least some of those gardeners and church members were on fixed income, or raising families, and I thought, at least it's getting to someone.

Then I hear this year, they turned away a local family that was looking for gardening space. Because it "would take too much organizing," and I'm not sure why that is, except that they didn't belong to this church. But I don't either, so why they got turned away... I don't know. And that bothers me a lot!

And they've been spraying chemicals. Roundup for what I considered a small weed problem. Some other herbicide (unnamed, see communication note below) on the patch of sweet corn, that's right next to one of my plots.

Communication has been lacking. They make plans to till something or spray something, but then if those plans don't pan out, they just do whatever they want when the whim takes them. I lost my hill of watermelon this year because someone decided that June was a great time to till, so they just did it one day, and they disregarded my plot markers and just tilled right through the middle of it.That bothered me a lot, and led to a angry email exchange.

I didn't feel like I was part of a community garden, I felt that I was part of a church garden, for church friends to garden in. I talked with the lead about my concerns, and she admits that the Community she was wanting to serve with this "Community Garden" was the church community, and not the neighborhood/town.

How insular. How disappointing.  I guess I should have known better... should have listened to my conscience.
So I told her I'm not returning next year.  I don't want to use my precious time and energy to promote and assist a garden that's only going to serve a small church group.  Nope. I'll finish out this year and harvest what I have planted, but no way am I putting more of my time or energy into this project.

What does this mean for my gardening? The community garden space is about half of my gardening space right now.
The short answer is, I'll find land elsewhere.  I found more this year through friends. If the farmers market EVER OPENS I'll have a card at my table explaining my need for more land, and I can distribute those amongst my customers. Hopefully I can find more growing space that way. If I have to put out an all-call to my friends this winter, I can try that too.  If I have to scale back my operations, I can do that.  I might, maybe, if I can find the time to take off work to do it, talk to the city council about a city sponsored community garden. (The city council meets at the oh-so-convenient time of 10am on Thursdays or something like that.) I may need some time off from community gardens though, even secular ones. So no promises on that one.

- Jennie

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