12 February 2009

Community Gardens Raise Spirits


Photo: Ruby Chard, Violas, parsley and ivy combined in a planter at Ft. Worth Botanical Garden

Bruce Edwards, keynote speaker for Muskogee's Feb 21 community gardening event, is an experienced and enthusiastic community gardening coordinator. For the past five years, Edwards has been the Urban Harvest director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

The ten year old program got started to support and sustain Oklahoma City community gardens in churches, schools and neighborhoods. Edwards said.

At Urban Harvest Edwards works with volunteers to develop new gardens and sustain established ones. There is a list of their garden locations at http://www.regionalfoodbank.org/communitygardenlocations.

Just like gardening, community gardens start with the seed of ideas, hopes, and dreams, Edwards said. Plant those in fertile minds so they can blossom and fruit.

One of the topics Edwards will cover in his talk on the 21st is how to organize a group of people and establish goals, roles and desires. Each garden will need a moderator to keep the effort going.

A strong nucleus of people is key to success, Edwards said. The coordinator helps the group keep focused and moving forward.

Edwards is bringing with him materials to help groups understand what rules and policies will structure their effort whether your goal is growing for your neighborhood or to give to the hungry.

They start by talking to potential members and inviting them to participate, said Edwards. Then, plan meetings, have a ground breaking event and invite everyone to come share the excitement.

Gardens close to where members live are more likely to be weeded, watered and harvested in the heat of the summer.

One of the gardens I work with is managed by a group of senior citizens in Noble who got local business folks to pay for the cost of building the original garden beds through financial and material donations, Edwards said. They are in their 70s and 80s but were able to grow and sell enough yellow pear tomatoes last year to build eight more growing beds for 2009. An Eagle Scout built their fence to earn his badge.

We like the gardens to have vegetables, herbs and flowers, Edwards said. Flowers attract beneficial insects but also make the gardens a nice addition to the neighborhood.

Often garden centers donate unsold plant materials to distribute to the community gardens. Edwards grows and distributes thousands of seedlings every year in the Urban Harvest Greenhouse.

Community gardens create more than vegetables, herbs and flowers, Edwards said. They create community. Senior citizen to youth relationships develop as seniors share their knowledge of where food comes from and how to grow it. It's generational.

After Edwards' opening talk, there will be presentations on basic gardening skills, growing for farmer's market and gardening with youth and children.

Basic gardening panelists include: Kim Walton of Walton Farms, George Driever, Virginia Stanley and Rodney King from Muskogee OSU Extension.

Doug Walton, Kerr Center and Muskogee Farmer’s Market will teach growing to sell.

Edwards and Demalda Newsome from Newsome Community Farms in Tulsa (http://www.newsomecommunityfarms.org) will present information about gardening with youth and children.

Registration: 918-683-0321, City Health Department, Martha Alford, martha@health.ok.gov or Doug Walton, doug. Walton@suddenlink.net and 918-686-6939.

Please provide your name, telephone, email and the number in your group who will attend, so there are enough materials for everyone.

Community Gardening Event, Feb 21 9:15 to 12:30, Muskogee Public Library, Information and registration: Muskogee Health Department 918-683-0321, Martha Alford, martha@health.ok.gov or Doug Walton, doug.Walton@suddenlink.net and 918-686-6939

2 comments:

Ellen Kirby said...

Your program on community gardening sounds great. There is a book, Community Gardening, published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2008 that may be of interest. Also, the American Community Gardening Assn. has lots of good resources....info at my blog kirbyplant.blogspot.com
Good luck!

Molly Day said...

Hi Ellen -
I saw that book and it's out of my price range but on my wish list.

The ACGA website is loaded with good stuff for all those community gardeners we hope to attract with the event!

Thanks for stopping by, Martha