Gettin’ Together! Community Garden Coordinator’s Spring Planning

We had a wonderful gathering of Community Garden Coordinator’s from across Halifax on May 20th 2015. Here’s the whole run down:

Purpose of the day: Gather together to feel a sense of support, share insights, leverage knowledge and skills, and build relationships.

Strengthen the network!

Hosts: Aimee Carson & Miranda Cobb, Our Food Project Staff

Location: Johanna B Ooserteveld Centre, 2103 Gottingen St, Halifax, NS


What did we get up to?

5:30-6:00pm Welcome & Introductions Name, Garden, What’s new in your garden this year?

6:00-6:30 Photovoice in the Garden: A window into participatory evaluation What can be applied in your garden from the photovoice project?

6:30-7:00 Café Conversation: What strategies do you use in the garden to ensure meaningful and participatory engagement?

7:00-7:20 Triad Exercise: In three’s each person has the chance to share a challenge and hear a brainstorm of ideas from the other two

7:20-7:40 Planning a summer coordinator event

7:40-8 Closing Circle: What are you taking with you?

Postcard 1Photovoice in the Garden: Miranda shared the story of the Photovoice Project as an example of a participatory engagement process for gardens. She showed the Photovoice Gala Video. Overall the strengths of the photovoice project included:
• strengthened meaningful and participatory engagement in the garden
• created a sense of community amongst gardeners (getting to know each other better)
• created a stronger identity for the gardens: got people thinking about the gardens and what they mean to them
• increased pride and buy-in
• energized gardeners
• increased garden profile in broader community and the importance of gardens in general
• magnetized resources to the garden The photovoice process is very adaptable and flexible in terms of time, and resources.

Postcard 3

Resources needed for a photovoice project: camera’s, time for one to multiple sessions, a space to meet in, and printed photos. Some ways this can be done include:
• In one day: combine a photo event with a garden BBQ; give folks camera’s (or get them to use cell phone or their own camera’s) and ask them: What does your garden mean to you? Collect photos and get them laminated and put up in the garden, like on a shed.
• Multiple sessions: Bring the gardeners together for a few sessions. Session 1: introduce the project; Session 2: have them bring back photos and tell stories about them; Session 3: have a community BBQ with the photos and stories up around the garden.

Discussion: What was most interesting about the photovoice project? Are there lessons you can apply from the photovoice project? Are there elements that could be used for engagement in your garden?
• Great artistic way to engage
• This process would work different in different communities – the newcomer population is different than more established communities around Halifax
• Good way to engage kids at the schools
• Teaches you that the garden means more that you thought
• Resources to tap into at NSCAD and NSCC for photo and video work
• Important to understand why you are using photovoice and design the process from there (what dynamics are going on in the garden, what goals do we have with the project?) Click for a full manual on how to do photovoice.


Café Conversation: What strategies do you use in the garden to ensure meaningful and participatory engagement? Everyone shared their experiences and ideas:
• Put the effort in in the community: be seen and heard: Go door to door the day before a garden event: make people really feel that you’re going that extra step for them
• Greet people: being warm, friendly and welcoming
• Working with the kids in the community: as we form those relationships we have a reason to go and talk to their parents
• Make it personable
• Communication: private facebook page; shed with a bulletin board
• Infrastructure: shed, make it look great! Make it a pace where people want to be present
• Designated gathering time/day: certain day of the week for an open workday; gives people security that there is someone at that time to help; made a family the leader for each workday – this increased ownership
• Schools: getting some local families to take a plot in the school garden to boost participation
• Word of mouth: invite people to come who you know are interested
• Asking the people that show up to bring someone: find someone to bring to your garden night
• Food: have food at programming and events
• Engage the kids: getting the kids to paint signs or be ‘garden security’
• Workshops: garden skills workshops; sold packs of workshops and give out punch-cards (buy 2 or 4 workshops) – fundraiser and commitment building
• Gardener agreements: name that if they don’t harvest their food then it will be picked and donated; or that if they are away to arrange for someone to water the garden
• Engage whole groups: Adventure Earth Centre
• Gardening is in the curriculum: connect with teachers to engage the curriculum with the garden so that the kids are not just planting beans in Styrofoam cups


Triad exercise: Miranda led a triad exercise where participants get into groups of three and are able to work through a challenge. Each part is timed to move the process along rapidly. It is a quick-hit brainstorming session. It goes like this:
1. Take a moment to think about a challenge you are grappling with or a big question you have about your garden season.
2. 2 min: Person A explains the challenge they are working through. Person B and Person C can ask one or two clarifying questions.
3. 2 min: Person A physically moves themselves out of the group by a foot or so and turns their back to the group. Person B and C brainstorm with each other about the challenge. Person A takes notes and listens deeply.
4. 1 min: Person A has a chance to share any illuminating or helpful insights they gained.
5. Repeat process for Person B and C.

The reason why Person A removes themselves from the conversation is so that they have the opportunity to listen more openly. This stops us from saying ‘yeah, but I tried that already’ or ‘but that won’t work because’ and allows us the opportunity to find a solution.

Planning a summer coordinator event: Aimee led a discussion with the aim of finding one event that she could support the gardener community on this summer. What are you most interested in learning and/or observing from other garden projects this year? Are there things you could use help on? After the brainstorm we took a quick vote to see where the most energy was and the results are shown below. Ideas:
• Workshop or 2 that bring people together across geographically close gardens. (1 vote)
• Support connections within gardens close in proximity.
• Provide list of garden experts to deliver workshops across the city; people that want to share their skills; or different types of support (social entrepreneurship in the garden, carpentry, statistics) (2 votes)
• Support a joint event: Oxford school and St. Catherine’s school
• Excess produce ‘market’: a day or two to have a market from community gardens; elevate the conversation around gardens; create some revenue/fundraising; give the experience for gardens of a market (demonstrate to gardeners) (4 votes)
• Opportunities to sell or showcase what we’re doing
• Continue community garden coordinator events
• Sharing resources – Halifax Garden Network
• Facebook group; garden listserve

Closing Circle and Reflections on the Day: We finished the day by asking the question: What do these gatherings bring to you and the community? What are you taking with you? Here are some themes from that sharing circle:

I feel less alone
• I feel connected!
• I often feel far away in my garden

Learn from each other & share common experiences
• It’s good to know we have common challenges and to better understand them
• Great to listen to common experiences
• Opened my eyes to different gardens

• “This is awesome!”
• This gets me excited about my garden everytime I come to these events
• Helps me to think about my garden in new ways

Great company!
• Feels good; feel better; so great to spend time with such great folks!

Inspired by Photovoice
• Maybe start it in my garden
• Realize that it’s really about the process that brings people together and deepens our common understanding

See you at the next Garden Coordinators Gathering!!

~Miranda Cobb, Community Food Researcher, Storyteller, Evaluator

Nebula Award – 2014

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