Monday, September 17, 2012

Plans for our Future

Sunday evening about 22 of the gardeners met in the garden for a potluck and to discuss what to do about the garden next year. It was a gorgeous evening, a lovely setting, and, of course, great company. 

Here is the current situation and our options:
  •  Our  current site at Winona Health: Lea met with Janel Miller, our liaision at Winona Health, on Thursday. Janel told her that,  "You should plan on not being here next year." She couldn't report on specifics, but  plans were in negotiation for development of the site. She added that it would be okay to leave our fencing and infrastructure in place over the winter. If the deal falls through (between WH and whoever), we may be able to stay 1 more year.
  •  A possible site at the Watkins Distribution Center on 3rd St.: Jan and Lea contacted Watkins about the possibility of moving to this site. It fits our criteria of size, central location and water availability. We met with Jim Yenish of Watkins, who is very open to the idea. He spent some time working with Watkins' insurance and legal departments to negotiate a lease. Negotiations are not complete, but this site is a definite possibility. The downside of this site is that it is also temporary in nature. Again we would have a year-to-year lease and possibly be asked to move within the next 5 years. 
  • Put our efforts into finding permanent site: Lea, who has researched other successful community gardens, notes that the ones that succeed long term are permanently located on city-owned land. Several times Lea and others have approached the City to begin a discussion for a suitable garden site on city-owned land, but have not been successful. 
The gardeners discussed these options and every permutation possible. People suggested other potential sites to look into.We brainstormed other ideas (My favorite: use small trailers as raised beds that could be moved wherever and whenever-a true "truck garden"). 

As the discussion wore on, it emerged that  there was little enthusiasm for moving to another temporary site. A  permanent site was what we needed. 
In the end we made the decision to take our chances with Winona Health for 2013 and immediately begin to work towards finding a permanent site for 2014. 
Implications of this decision are:
  • It is possible that we will not have a garden in 2013
  • We cannot begin to register gardeners until we get an official go-ahead from Winona Health.
  • We may be moving our infrastructure off the site with nowhere to store it.
  • We will need to refocus our energies. We will need to convince the city officials that a community garden is an asset to the city as a whole, not just a few gardeners. This will be uphill work. Our future success (indeed our future) depends on it.

As I always say, this garden belongs to everyone and all voices are important. If you were not able to attend the meeting last night and want to comment , please post a comment on the blog or email me.    

Next steps:
  • This Wednesday, September 19, 7-8 p.m. 3rd Floor, City Hall  (Layfayette and 4th St.)the League of Women Voters is conducting a forum. The candidates for Mayor and for Wards 1 and 3 will participate. The forum is broadcast by both HBC and Charter on their public access channels. 
This is the perfect opportunity to question the candidates about where they stand on supporting the idea of a community garden and to point out the benefits to you personally and to the community as a whole that a community garden provides. It will raise an awareness that may not yet exist. 

  • identify potential sites for a permanent location
  • write letters to the editor
  • write letters to city officials 
  • talk to city officials 
  • attend city council meetings 

If you have additional ideas or resources, let me know
If you are willing to help out at whatever level or time commitment you can, let me know.
The Board will be working on a list of reasons why a community garden is a valuable asset in our town, but I'm sure that everyone can name several from their own experience.


1 comment:

  1. It was very informational get-together and very successful potluck. I am still thinking about that green tomato cake (or pie). I am suggesting some of us visit Goodview city Hall as a group and talk to City Manager to see if there are any possibility of a plot in Goodview. Goodview Industrial Area (near Airport might have something - nothing wrong to ask).
    How about Minnesota City?