In my first post in this series I reminded everyone of the importance of asking “why garden” before doing anything else. Looking inward helps set the intention and vision for your garden and it’s an important first step. But what happens next?
Step 2– Building Your Garden Team
Rather than rushing out to immediately start digging and planting, think about growing your garden team. You won’t be doing your garden alone. You can’t and you shouldn’t. Also, rather than giving a garden to others, it’s beneficial to build a team and collaborate, so the feeling is one of community. This step is another foundation-building step to ensure long term success at your school or in your neighborhood.
You and your colleagues each have something to contribute because gardening encompasses lots of different jobs and roles. Determining who’s best suited to play certain roles, and who’s going to be most enthusiastic about different parts of the overall garden initiative, will help you know whose talent to tap into when. I have seen gardens with great ideas fail due to a lack of clear leadership and understanding of who is in charge. Who will be planning what to plant, creating lesson plans, thinking through teaching methods and, yes, watering? Clear garden leadership at the top ensures a blueprint from which to flow and grow
Question to ask yourself, or even better, think through with your team:
- Who will be in charge of the garden once the vision is established? Refer back to who has helped create the garden vision? These are your stakeholders and depends on whether your garden vision is based in the preschool, an after-school program, the religious school, or the whole institution. Your stakeholders, or a few of your most involved visionaries, will be the ones to keep the big picture at hand and see your planting season as a year-round endeavor.
- Who can you collaborate with to create the nuts and bolts of the garden program and activities? Who is good at managing tasks and seeing the steps along the way? This person will help create an organizational chart, see the details, and know how activities support the overall vision.
Everyone Can Contribute:
It’s been my experience that once things get started you can cultivate curiosity and involvement pretty easily. Begin to think:
- Who has the green thumbs to grow the garden? Who may like to dig in and get dirty?
- Who will water the garden? A simple yet overlooked question and responsibility yet one of the most important things once you get rolling.
- “Who’s great at science experiments?” or, “Who’s great at cooking?” There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the fruits of your labor. These are the people who will use and utilize the garden and make magic happen educationally, visually, and physically.
You already have resources you can use…people around you who will come alive when given the opportunity to be involved with the garden. Who are your hidden gems? It may be teachers who can’t wait to expand what they are already doing in the classroom or it may be custodial staff you may not have thought of, who has great knowledge and experience, just not in your setting… yet! Always remember, its o.k. and even beneficial to start small and succeed with small steps and then, from a place of experience, decide what next small step you want to take next.
Building Upon Early Success:
It’s never too early to build upon the success you are having. To do this you’ll want to think about next steps unique to your school, structure and situation. Do you need to talk with administration? Your board? Would it be helpful to get new people on board with the garden and the WHY of the garden? Sometimes it takes being in the thick of things to see where you want to make changes. I have seen clarity develop and a new setting of intention with this step as well as prevent problems later on.
For some, this step can be formal and for others, it can be a quick, casual conversation. Always best to be followed up with a typed up garden mission to refer back to when deciding next steps and asking, “Is it in alignment with our garden mission?”
Hillary Marra is an Edible Garden Consultant at the Rosenthal JCC in Pleasentville, NY. You can read her bio here. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.