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Information & Resources...

Tips to Create a New Community Garden...

                      ...in Burlington (and elsewhere)

  • dad and childCreate a leadership team and generate support.
  • Creating a new garden on public land near you
  • Creating a new garden on private land
  • Document templates and tips to operate a garden
  • Example construction and material costs, annual operating costs and revenues

Create a leadership team and generate support. The more people involved the better, however a committed leadership group of 4-6 can generate a good vision, implementation plan, and delegate tasks.

The first brainstorming session should establish:

  • Purpose or Mission:  This is a very broad concept of why your garden or gardening organization exists, and can help keep everyone on track. For example, "To bring building residents together by growing fresh food," or “ To create a friendly community to engage isolated seniors.”
     
  • Goals:  These are statements describing what your group hopes to accomplish in order to bring it closer to its overall mission. Goals could include: "increased access to fresh produce, increased environmental awareness, and stronger community networks."
     
  • Objectives:  These are clear tasks that are meant to bring you closer to your goals. These should be short, have deadlines, and be specific to your goals.
     
  • Establish a good communication system where everyone’s voice is heard and respected.
     
  • Develop an agreeable basic vision (i.e. one common plot or several individual plots, some raised accessible beds or children’s plots).
     
  • Create a 1-page description of your project for multiple uses such as to get supporting signatures from the local community, present to the land owner, neighbours, city officials, media and potential fund-raisers.

    Keep it brief and include:
    • Definition of community gardening, aims and purposes, example photos or site design
    • Your garden’s mission statement
    • Names of garden members
    • What will be grown
    • Year round maintenance plan
    • Background of the sponsoring agency or group
    • Name, address and phone numbers for at least two contact people
    • Attach letters of support

  • Plan to communicate with your ward councillor, any neighbourhood residents’ association, or any community service agency working in the area. These are important allies to support this healthy community initiative.
     
  • Consider setting up a group structure, possibly incorporate as a non-profit or charity which can make you eligible to apply for grant funding.

If you are interested in a public land location for a new community garden in your neighbourhood but don’t want to run a community garden, the City of Burlington is interested in creating new allotment style community gardens and may supply a community garden coordinator. Interested residents should follow the above steps in order to gather and demonstrate support from others in the neighbourhood (or building, townhouse complex, school community, etc.) for a particular location, and bring a petition showing this support to the ward councillor and the city Parks department. The City has established a short list of public locations which are outlined here. If a different park site still interests you, contact the Parks department and ask for an evaluation of the park land use to see if situating a community garden can be accommodated.

If the site you are interested in is privately owned you will need to find out who owns it and come to an agreement about the use of the site.

Ownership can be determined by checking with the Land Registry Office although there may be a search fee involved. Zoning and permitted usage needs to be confirmed. If there are zoning problems contact the City Planning Department to see if a community garden can be accommodated or if the zoning can be changed. 

Landowners need to feel confident in your group’s ability to carry out the project. Keep them well informed, in writing, of your plans, any past experience in community-based projects, and of your progress. Make sure to include them in any group communications (eg. blog posts) and invite them or their employees to join the garden.

Many private owners require that you carry your own liability insurance. The garden group may need some basic structure to deal with an insurance broker. Some landowners may be willing to have all participants simply sign a “Hold Harmless” clause. This sets out in writing that you will absolve the owner of any liability but it will not provide any sort of coverage for the injured.  See example

If your garden group will continue to build and operate the garden (rather than the City) there are several items to consider:

  • Optimum site factors including 6+ hours of sun, high visibility for security, water harvesting and access and funds to pay the water bill, drainage, washroom access, parking, transit access, walking and cycling routes to the site, soil testing.
  • How the site has been historically used by the community who may be impacted (eg. dog walkers, sport field users and spectators).
  • Providing amenities like rain barrel risers, picnic table, sturdy bench(es), shade umbrella, washroom facilities (permanent or portable).
  • Providing recycling and garbage bins, managing waste, compost bins, yard waste pick up of excess plant material.
  • Providing storage space for empty plant pots, boards, plant stakes, tomato cages.
  • Providing community garden sign and plot identification.
  • Supply and delivery of woodchips for paths, new seasonal supplies of compost or soil.
  • Establish gardener and volunteer guidelines in accordance with all governing laws and bylaws.  See example
  • Establish tenant agreement/permit and administer it.  See example
  • Advertise and promote so that more people may join. 
  • Administer people applying and a wait list.  See application example
  • Provide meeting space for inclement weather and any indoor programming or events, organize harvest celebrations.
  • Fundraising for desired items (eg. fence, shed, cold frame, tools, locks, signs, website, coordinator staff, and celebrations).
  • Set up a communication system (eg. Facebook page, shared e-mail addresses, blog access, or only via a coordinator if privacy is desired).
  • Communicate gardening tips and resources with the group. Provide gardening resources such as books and blog links.

Example costs

(based on a 30 plot garden (7’ x 12’ each, including 2 accessible plots) to involve 60+ people annually)
 

Construction and materials:

 

Shed construction $1,720
Stenciled plot numbering 100
Garden name signs 280
Path woodchip delivery 500
Contracted construction* 11,470
Soil & delivery 2,900
5’ Fence and gates @ $65/ft 7,876
Bench and installation 850
Planner & general contracting 3,500
Picnic tables 675
Sub-total $29,871


*Construction costs include: site survey, grading, lumber & hardware for plot frames, water line & tap, water cabinet, hose, shed, compost bins, accessible plots, concrete entrance, creating plots, filling with soil, creating woodchip paths, rain barrel risers.
 

Equipment:

 Garden tools* $3,000
 Tool box & hand tools**  100
 Rental tools (eg. roto-tiller, lawn mower) 300
 Composter 15
 Picnic Table 45
 Hose, nozzles, sprinkler 100
 Storage shed 600
 Wheelbarrow 75
 Watering cans 60
Sub-total $4,295

 
*Garden tools include: 10 spades, 30 trowels, 10 rakes, 10 garden forks, 3 pruners.
**Tool box includes: hammer, wrench, tape measure, safety glasses, cable ties, screwdriver set, WD 40
 

Annual Operating Costs:

Water $600
Tool replacement 100
Soil top up & delivery (bi-annual) 600
Design, print & advertising 1,000
Admin & Coordinator staff 8,000-10,000
Seeds & plant material* 400
Sub-total $12,700


*Seeds may be supplied by seed exchange, community business in-kind donation, or from the gardeners involved.
 

Annual Revenues:

30 plots @ $50 annual fee each $1500
Sponsorship ?
Grants ?

 

Resources

There are many other online resources to help you get a community garden underway, including:

Promoting Community Gardening

garden plotsMunicipalities can take steps to facilitate community gardens. The US-based National Policy and Legal Network Analysis to Prevent Childhood Obesity provides model planning and zoning language that municipalities can use to protect and expand community gardens.

BC's Climate Action Toolkit provides tips on how local governments can support community gardens in its Dig It Community Garden Guide.

 


Food Safety of Community Gardens

Food safety is as important in community gardening as it is in commercial farming. The people who eat and enjoy your fresh produce should have the assurance that this food is produced under a reliable set of food safety guidelines.

The OMAFRA Advantage Good Agricultural Practices manual offers informative advice on food safety, farm waste, and discusses risk assessment and reduction.

OMAFRA also offers information on traceability and how to incorporate this feature into your project.

For new food safety products and advice, check the OMAFRA food safety website.