Sandpoint Transition Initiative Community Garden

Here is a lovely story from Pat Wentworth of the Sandpoint Transition Initiative, in Idaho, about the establishment of their first Community Garden from starting off as a few raised beds to becoming a community conversation piece...


How We Keep Volunteers 

You can read all the books; attend all the workshops; watch all the videos; listen to all the experts or just pray but the only real way to keep volunteers is to imprison them. And so we did.
photoThe Sandpoint Transition Initiative Food Group established it’s first Community Garden in the spring of 2009. We started with 1/3 of an acre of grassy public park land, a bankroll of $0.00 and an initial group of nearly 70 enthusiastic individuals interested in creating a place for people to grow their own veggies.
By the time our first gardening season ended we had 1/3 of an acre of every type of vegetable imaginable, wildflowers, giant sunflowers and some of the biggest zucchini west of the Rockies. Our bankroll was in negative territory and our volunteers pool was down to about 14 – 7 who could barely walk and 7 others who became addicted to Arnica. Oh Boy! We just couldn’t wait for next year’s garden!
But here’s what happened. In the process of creating 36 garden plots (which we rented out) and another comparable area created for donating veggies to the Food Bank, Senior Centers, Missions and anyone in the community who was struggling to make ends meet, little miracles started happening. 
Our garden became a community conversation piece. The garden is set in a very visible location with loads of traffic driving by and an office complex filled with voyeurs wondering what the heck was going on.   By the end of the season we had received donations of soil, a garden shed, wood chips, and garden tools. Now don’t get me wrong. We (those of us who could still walk) went out and solicited donations; wrote newspaper articles; participated in local community functions; shamed innocent children out of their lunch money; and emptied our personal piggy banks to keep the garden alive.

Fast forward to present time…
Today’s 2010 Community Garden has been an even bigger success. Through word of mouth (mostly ours) we received a Grant; the beautiful sign you see in the picture, more soil, lumber enough to frame in this year’s 60 (!!!) beds; seeds; more wood chips; more tools; fertilizer (organic of course); raspberry bushes and unsolicited newspaper publicity. We sold out of plots in early May and had a waiting list! And yes, we even corralled some more volunteers. 
garden photo
The moral of this story: “If you build it, they will come.” 
Article and photos submitted by:
Pat Wentworth
STI Food Group


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