Ten steps to grow a community
Get together and believe you can make a difference
By getting together with others, local people can grow a community. With enthusiasm and energy you can turn any piece of land into a growing space that’s good for people and good for the environment. It could be an under-used piece of land such as a space in your local school or hospital grounds, it might be a derelict piece of land, or even part of someone’s garden. Growing, harvesting and celebrating together can bring a community to life.
You’ll want to get as many local people on board as you can. Whether it’s to share skills and produce, attract more volunteers or to help with raising funds, it’s a good idea to get people buzzing. Post up local notices, use existing community networks and contact your local media to drum up as much support as you can—community stories have great selling power.
Get plugged in
There are people and organisations that can help you along the way. For example, you can contact your local master composter via www.wrap.org.uk, or you can get a starter pack filled with everything you need to know about running a community garden from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens at www.farmgarden.org.uk/publications, or you can contact Garden Organic for hands-on organic gardening advice at www.gardenorganic.org.uk, or you can look for a local expert or ‘veg doctor’ on the landshare website, www.landshare.net. Regional networks, specialised advice and funding information is also available through the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.
One of the best ways to learn and develop your own project is to visit other sites for inspiration. Tap into other shared growing spaces for great ideas – you’ll be amazed at how helpful and enthusiastic community gardeners are. You can find details of other projects in your area on the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens website at www.farmgarden.org.uk/places-to-go. You could also visit your local allotments for inspiration.
Once you’re on your way you’ll want to get more people from your community involved. Find out what different skills your group has, and think about what new ones you might benefit from - everybody will have something to offer. There are plenty of short courses that might also help you on your way, such as at cgi.www.btcv.org/etn
Get some land
You might have a piece of land in mind, or you might need to find one. A good starting point is to visit the newly launched landshare website at www.landshare.net, or alternatively ask your local council – they may know of a suitable site within school, hospital or housing association grounds, or on an allotment or derelict site.
It’s good to start off with a small group of people to share ideas and make decisions. You don’t need to be too formal to start with, but do make sure that you record your decisions. Once your site is up and running, or if you are applying for funding, it’s a good idea to agree exactly how you will be structured, such as by creating a constitution. For help on how to get organised contact the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens or read The Essential Trustee: an introduction on the Charity Commission website.
Get growing a community
Keep it simple to start with and only take on what your group can realistically achieve. Although you won’t get instant results with community gardening, with commitment, you will see not just a garden grow, but a whole community around it.
It may take some time securing a piece of land and you may need to negotiate with the local council or a private landowner. Stay in touch with others - if you keep your sights set on what you want to achieve for your local community, you will be surprised how many people want to help you.
Reap the rewards and celebrate
Enjoy the benefits of working outside, keeping healthy, growing good food and flowers and making friends. Celebrate with your first harvest – how about a big lunch street party in July - and keep on celebrating! Visit www.thebiglunch.com or www.streetparty.org.uk for ideas.