September Toolshed: Tips for Garden Leaders

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Gresser, Barton Chronicle

Build Your Skills

Congratulations on supporting the growth of another season in your community or school garden!  With another year under your belt you’ve likely learned more about what works and what doesn’t work in managing your garden.  As the season draws to an end, reflect on what you’ve learned and what you want to learn more about to be even more prepared for next season.  Below are some topics and opportunities to pursue as you build your skills as a garden leader.

  • Build your garden leadership skills. Whether you’ve been at it for a few months or many years you know that garden leadership is about more than just knowing how to garden.  Helpful skills and knowledge include volunteer management, conflict resolution, community outreach and communications, strategic planning, creative problem-solving, fundraising, running meetings, delegation…to name a few.
  • Increase your garden management know-how. In garden leadership there’s the management of gardeners and there’s the management of the garden itself.  Keeping up these large communal spaces is quite different than managing a backyard garden space. Think about questions like: How are communal spaces maintained?  How are infrastructure needs addressed?
  • Fill in gaps in your gardening knowledge. Gardening is a life-long learning journey. Staying up to speed on both basic and more advanced techniques will better prepare you for gardener questions and garden maintenance.
  • Enhance garden education. School gardens and community gardens alike offer rich opportunities for learning and gardener growth.  Enhance the educational aspect of your garden by connecting with the plethora of garden-based curricular and activity resources.  Here’s list of some of our favorites: https://vcgn.org/garden-organizer-toolkit/learning-in-the-garden/.
  • Get inspired and join the movement. Connect with others who are doing similar work in community-based gardens.  Seek out gatherings of people involved in the community-based gardening and related movements—swap stories, share resources, and get inspired.

Happenings around the state and region this fall:

  • VCGN’s Grow It! Workshops offered every spring and fall are opportunities for community and school garden leaders to build leadership and management skills and connect with others in doing similar work around the state. This fall we’ll be tackling Compost Management!  Join us at a site near you this October: https://vcgn.org/what-we-do/growit/.
  • UVM Extension Master Composter Course is offered every fall and is a great resource for building compost management skills for your garden. Classes online, 4 evenings, September 22-October 13, 2016. Registration deadline coming up September 9! Go to https://www.uvm.edu/mastergardener/master-composter/.
  • New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) holds webinars as well as in-person workshops around New England throughout the year for grassroots groups. Some examples of webinar leadership-related topics you can find in their archives include: group sustainability, grassroots media, storytelling, building resilient solutions, and inclusion and diversity.  Coming up October 20, “How to Run Effective Meetings”— online signup at: https://grassrootsfund.org/tools/training.
  • VT Farm to School Conference – A statewide gathering of members and leaders of the farm to school community; includes learning around garden education and connecting with others in the movement. Happening November 2-3 in Fairlee, VT—sign up online at: http://vermontfarmtoschoolconference.org.
  • Check out VCGN’s Events Calendar for more info on garden classes, food and farm events, and other opportunities for expanding your gardening knowledge and connections to the movement. Featured this month is a talk by Dan Kitteridge on soil health: https://vcgn.org/events/.
  • Connect with local groups in your area—Vermont has an abundance of wonderful food advocacy organizations, many of whom offer food and workshops and other resources to support gardening knowledge. For example: farm-to-school non-profits, food co-ops, garden stores, farm and food organizations, Transition Town groups, etc.