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I firmly believe in the concept of community gardens as a way of supplying healthy produce and providing much needed exercise for the gardeners. It is an excellent educational tool to teach children, and some adults, where our food comes from and how difficult it can be to produce. If done correctly, a community garden is a valuable addition to an area.
Community gardens can be based on several models. You can divide a piece of land into individual plots, with each plot being planted, cared for and harvested by the assigned gardener(s). Another model is to plant a piece of land with a variety of crops and have member gardeners tend the garden on specific days or a weekly rotation. Everyone who works in the garden shares in the harvest. For either model, the organizers must take into account the need for the initial tilling of the land and soil amendments based on a soil test, a convenient location, irrigation needs (not all crops need the same amount of water), fencing to keep out two- and four-legged pests, composting spent crops, disposal of weeds, etc. What kind of liability is the landowner responsible for if a gardener is injured on-site? Another important factor is whether all participants want to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers or take a more natural, organic approach. Also consider the financial impact of the garden on local markets and vegetable stands.
I worked with a former employee of Levy County Health Dept. in 2008-09 to form a community garden in Bronson. The garden was located behind the courthouse, and had eight plots each about 90 square feet in size. They were free to gardeners as were a variety of tools and water for irrigation. Only three people signed up, and two abandoned their plots part way through the season. I heard complaints about having to weed, how much hard work was involved and that watering took too long. Some of the produce was stolen along with the hoses. The project was abandoned after no one signed up for the fall season. An adjacent plot managed by a teacher and worked by students from Hilltop School met a similar fate.
Many things can take root and grow in a garden. Forging generational dialogue and friendships, connecting members of a geographic location and forming a community are the most important. I hope Mr. Beck and the town of Bronson meet with success in this venture.