Community gardens can remain active even when gardening is not

Facilitating effective workshops helps to engage gardeners through learning experiences. Learning experiences both enable and energize participants leading to a higher level of dedication and inspiration in your organization.

This is the last of a series of articles about effective ways to run a community garden. The previous topic was about public relations and communicating your garden message. Other articles in this series posted by Michigan State University Extension included: how community gardens add to asset-based community development, how to organize a community garden, strategic planning, learning from the past through evaluating your community garden activities and budgeting and fundraising.

Even though your community garden is nodding its sleepy head waiting for winter snows to blanket its beds, gardeners need not take a winter nap. This is the best time to offer off-season education and planning opportunities. Passing on garden wisdom or offering garden basics training to new members are just a couple of ways to create an educational experience that will also help to maintain enthusiasm engagement with your gardeners. Offering a training or workshop takes planning.

It is more than just having a place and a time; you must also have considered what learning outcomes may be and who can deliver the message. Additionally, other practical considerations include how long it should be and what appropriate activities are needed. From my experience, it seems that gardeners are, by their nature, more of a “hands-on” group; therefore do much better with less talking and more doing. Educational workshops can be short or long and still be effective.

Hiring educational speakers need not be expensive. There are many organizations that offer speakers for free and some for a small fee or for expense reimbursement. You could start with contacting your local MSU Extension office in your county for guidance. You could ask a Master Gardener Volunteer; seek trained professionals to come talk to your group, and so on.

It is important to keep in mind when hosting an educational program that they are similar to hosting effective meetings, make sure to start on time and to end on time. Plan for ice breakers and for breaks. Create a safe learning environment with some basic rules of conduct. Finally, planning your workshop to include fun and learn something along the way is more inspirational and energizing than walking away with the feeling that the only thing lacking were the pillows.

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