Starting a community garden project takes organization

Before you start a successful community garden project your group or organization should be able to identify some basic resources and be organized at the beginning.

Groups or organizations that want to start a neighborhood community garden should get organized from the very start. While a previous Michigan State University Extension news article discussed community gardens as asset based developments and described a method to invite partners in community gardens to build programs and activities. This article builds on that to outline some general organizing steps to ensure both success and sustainability.

  1. Start with finding a core group of committed people who are willing to see the project though to its conclusion. These organizers will form a beginning organizational structure that can be picked up by new members as they form their own decision making board.
  2. Contact as many people as possible in the effected neighborhood. This is a good time to survey them to assess interest, support and enthusiasm for the project. Advertise your public meeting and intent.
  3. Determine if the community has the ability to meet the basic needs of a community garden.
    1. Place: Find a suitable site with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, water, suitable parking etc. Get a lease in writing for use of the space for at least three to five years, even if it is donated space.
    2. Soil: Is the soil suitable? Get the soil tested for nutrient content and possible toxins such as lead.
    3. Water: Is water close by? If you need to get water how will you secure that? Who pays the water bill? Will you need to set a well?
  4. Hold your first public community garden meeting. Use this as your first step in recruiting both local leadership and sign on your gardeners. Recruit interested people dedicated to maintaining and sustaining a long-term project. A good goal for a solid start is at least 10 gardeners or garden spaces rented. This is also when you can begin to coordinate a site plan, identify human and local assets and more. MSU Extension has more information on how to conduct or facilitate an effective meeting.
  5. Get growing! Take action and let the process of a community garden begin. Promote the community garden locally, continue to get sponsors and other public support, and plan and host regular public events to maintain excitement and interest.

MSU Extension educators working across Michigan provide community food systems educational programming and assistance. For more information, you can contact an educator through MSU Extension’s “Find an Expert” search tool using the keywords “community food systems.”

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