With 27 ratings
By: LaManda Joy
Purchased At: $18.50
Recommended by the American Community Gardening Association
Community gardening enhances the fabric of towns and cities through social interactions and accessibility to fresh food, creating an enormously positive effect in the lives of everyone it touches. LaManda Joy, the founder of Chicago’s Peterson Garden Project and a board member of the American Community Gardening Association, has worked in the community gardening trenches for years and brings her knowledge to the wider world in Start a Community Food Garden. This hardworking guide covers every step of the process: fundraising, community organizing, site sourcing, garden design and planning, finding and managing volunteers, and managing the garden through all four seasons. A section dedicated to the basics of growing was designed to be used by community garden leaders as an educational tool for teaching new members how to successfully garden.
It is all encompassing from how to talk to politicians , to agendas for your first community meeting down to advice on vegetables for the garden.
I also thought the information on the seed swap was informative.
In addition, the layout makes for an easy read.
It's good on many of the common issues in starting a community garden. Recommended as a first book.
Strengths : Well organized, focuses on mission and initial funding, positive.
The book starts with the mission statements and developing the organization. The diagram of the reciprocity map of organizations is good at visualizing resources and added the extra star for a five. Also the author covers soil safety and water issues in depth to the appropriate level for a new garden (although how to get these tests for lead and metals is lacking). Most gardens test but bring in soil. Case studies are strong in the book. (Adds a star.)
Things I feel are lacking.
1) Leadership and gardener motivation (understanding motivation in a community garden) could be better. A diagram of motivators and motivation approaches could be better. Working with members that lack motivation is weak in the handbook, and the member types don't map well to leadership theory. Also the type of leadership styles that common in a community garden could be better.
2) Why gardens fail (the ACGA has a lot of research on this topic) and some coverage of traps and pitfalls would be useful.
These include 1) failing to secure and retain land; 2) neighbor relations, 3) underestimating costs, and 4) member motivation and conflicts.
3) Conflicts and issues could be addressed. There is a gap in dealing with people when things get crazy. Conflict resolution issues are big in community gardens.
4) Safety - Also could cover attractive nuisance laws, and the food safety issues with donations of produce.
5) The utility of developing a model (example) or template plot for gardeners (e.g. raised beds) could be better. I'd define this as a plot design that a new gardener or member should succeed with.
6) Finance - I disagree with mixing personal and organization funds EVER in even small gardens. Also could discuss pitfalls of grant funding (e.g. errors by repurposing grant funds).
7) Budgeting, and money could be better. A "donations wanted" budget should be introduced. In monetary value, (donation of items plus money) new gardens usually cost .50 to $2.00 per square foot to start. Underestimating funding, and donation requirements is a huge issue in new gardens. The amount needed to run a garden is also key information (how much do we need every year to sustain the garden). Getting it in a budget and assigning values helps the non-profit status.
8) Site selection and site management could be better. Knowing the factors for selecting a site are key in long term success.
9) The vegetable information is ok, but there is nothing compelling as to why that's not found better elsewhere. Why is it in this book here? A set of checklists, or something else could better use the space.
I am not a fan of author's traditional view (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer), as I'd assign a Garden Leader (president), Site Manager (instead of a VP who manages the site issues, documents the garden book, and enforcement), and then have the secretary, and treasurer. The author may not be familiar with the NJ Legal Bar created - The New Jersey Community Garden Legal Toolkit - http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/shapingnj/documents/work/publications/CommunityGardenToolkit_Final.pdf, it lays out many topics covered here. That toolkit assists this book altogether, in setting up the garden organization and policies. I'd add it to the very resource rich section of the book.
Overall, this is a very good book. It's not everything essential, but very close. An essential item should be how much does a garden cost, pitfalls and leadership. Added one star on the mobilization of resources so the 4 star book is a 5.