Planting seeds to grow a community

As I have previously stated, I started a list of goals for 2014 back in December.  Some are personal goals.  Some are financial goals.  Some are household goals.  And, some are ‘pay it forward’ goals.

One of these pay it forward goals is that I would like to start a community fruit and vegetable garden.  While it is not a new idea, it is something that I believe would benefit many people here in my local area.  People like single parents, un/under employed, dual income families with just too many ends to make meet each month– basically, anyone and everyone.  Even though I am unemployed, I do not qualify for benefits such as SNAP or WIC because a piece of paper states an amount that I should be receiving to support my children.  Sometimes I get this income.  Sometimes I do not.  It’s not at all regular, but, because that piece of paper says I get it, it leaves me unable to qualify for assistance.  I know that I could benefit from a community garden to help offset the cost of groceries for the children and I.

This garden would not be charity, though.  Quite the contrary, actually.  This garden would allow those to proud to apply for assistance an opportunity to ‘work’ for their shares of fruits and veggies.  This garden would allow those that get assistance an opportunity to stretch their benefits a bit further.  This garden would give parents a teaching opportunity for their children on what it means to work for a living.  This garden would allow children to see how awesome our environment is and how to use it to provide sustenance.   This garden would bring a community together and allow for networking and new friendships and relationships.  This garden would be a community effort– one that is as functional as it is beautiful.

I envision plots of tomatoes and vines of squash.  I picture blueberry bushes and strawberry patches.  I dream of peppers and lettuces and broccoli and cucumbers and carrots and more.  I imagine children laughing and smiling as they sneak green beans and snap peas to nibble.   I see beautiful flowering plants and overflowing baskets of healthy, ripe, delicious vegetation.  And, I visualize the family recipes being utilized to create meals that fill the bellies and hearts of all whom partake of the community garden.

When the seasons start to change, and the growing season slows, the community garden is just warming up!  While I cannot, I know there are many that can and do can fruits and veggies from harvests.  The garden will have its harvest, and the remaining bounty can be made into salsa and jams and canned tomatoes, peppers, and more.  This effort will enable the community to enjoy the labors of the summer months well into the long, cold winter.  One of my favorite Christmas gifts this past December was a jar of homemade salsa from a dear friend.  When I cracked the seal on the jar and poured out the fresh tomatoes, peppers and cilantro into a bowl, I remembered my friend and our talks and our stories.  It was comforting– and delicious!!

The problem is, though, that I do not know the first thing about taking on a project like this.  This is all that I know:  I would have to find a location and get zoning.  I would have to get word out so that we could build our list of ‘community helpers’ to get gardens prepped and sectioned off.  We would need tools and gloves and knee pads for us *ahem* older helpers.  We would need to have seedlings started– or maybe we could get donations from some of the local stores.  We would need to create schedules of weeding, watering, and general maintenance of the space.  When the plants begin to produce, we would need help harvesting and sorting and packaging.  We would need to divide the harvest amongst the community garden helpers and families.  Anything left over could be donated to a shelter or soup kitchen, I’m sure, or, used in early canning batches.

One thing that I would like to see happen–besides the community coming together to grow relationships and food–is a community dinner created from our harvest.   I can think of nothing better than coming together to share in the reward of our hard work.

Has anyone ever started anything like this?  Any advice or input?  Would you participate in a community garden?

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