Finding enough people to do the shared work in a community planting is an endless job for community garden leaders. Folks do want to participate, but often life is busy and there are many competing interests for our time. Here in the the Twin Cities there is a flurry of garden openings happening this week. For me that means 6 community gardens in 9 days. At four of those, I had arranged for persons needing community service to attend. These extra bodies on big work days are priceless. Ten single-visit-volunteers can take care of a task that would require 2 people to do all day. This fact makes these bigger work days more fun for the regulars as they get to do something different and the sense of accomplishment feels like "Extreme Makeover". There are tricks to getting this to happen but, you won't be able to make such arrangements overnight.
This post is the first in a series of tips to find more hands for your garden. Your efforts now in sourcing one-time-volunteers will be a boon for your community garden projects later in the season (when the regulars are tiring out).
The first step needed is to set your dates for the season and get the word out! This seems obvious, but I interact with many garden groups who do not have a webpage, a flier or even an up to date email list. Your sessions really do need to be on the web, at your neighborhood office, on electronic and printed calendars, the local newspapers listings, Facebook, in the hands of related neighborhood groups, and/or as many other public places and websites as possible. Sometimes folks will stumble upon your event post and ask if they can attend, requiring no other action by you. This happened at Como Corner and the Gateway Garden (see photo) this week where a large group of college students from the YMCA called asking to come to our community garden time as a 1 time service project.
The time I spent getting the dates on the calendar and creating a webpage was repaid many times over for the 1 hour that the YMCA folks were there.
Does this mean that someone in your garden needs to become savvy about such things? Well in short, yes it does. The PR role does not have to be done by the same person who weeds, but this skill set and role needs to be part of your garden's support system. Can't be you? Then think creatively about be someone from a neighborhood organization, a neighbor across the street that benefits from the garden's presence, or an intern.
In future posts, I will point to volunteer sources that could also be tapped to help with your garden's PR role.