15. SustainTheFuture.org – Community Garden Network Program (STF-CGN)
In a nutshell a Community Garden Network (CGN) is a locally organized community effort focused on maximizing local produce production, harvesting, and food distribution through networks within the community to eliminate hunger, encourage healthy nutrition, self-sustenance, and community bonding. Challenges each community face as it attempts to start-up a CGN are
- Enrollment of private, public, and residential gardens
- Volunteer engagement, mobilization, related Incentive strategies to ensure participation
- Planning strategies for ensuring all produce is picked and distributed and nothing goes to waste
- Sponsor engagement and food distribution partnerships to ensure produce is delivered
- Frictionless sharing of best practices, tools, models
The STF-CGN mission is to create a reusable county wide model & operational framework (w/tools) for implementing community based agriculture, healthy eating, and self-sustenance as a building block for the planet.
The STF–CGN Program’s mission is to create a reusable operational framework (w/supporting tools) which enables county wide communities to work together to
- Maximize local garden space and productivity and increase the amount of locally donated produce in the community. Local garden space can include gardens, orchards, vineyards, groves and landscaped, etc...
- Enlist local volunteers and volunteer organizations to support the planting, maintenance, harvesting, distribution, and exchange of produce, and reduction in food waste; CGN sponsors will include local food banks, local governments, leading organizations, and/or individuals/families.
- Educate and increase awareness of sustainable farming and self-sustenance in the community.
- Collaborate, innovate, and connect virtually and online to manage the programs and the membership community; uses an action-oriented web interface and social media to administer the program.
The target participant groups are local individuals, families, organizations, service providers and experts passionate about agriculture and aiming for self-sustenance in their community. The STF-CGN program’s role is to define and implement “repeatable” programs which accrue benefits for all participant groups and leverage the volunteers in the communities.
The STF–CGN Program’s framework will focus on providing the blueprint, tools, and consulting required for the creation of new Community Garden Networks (CGN) (at the County level) or leveraging existing gardens, expertise, volunteers, and produce sharing activities. The framework relies on mobilization and participation from citizen, agricultural, commercial, academic, and civic constituents across the community.
The program will also engage in outreach to promote the adoption of CGNs in communities with local champions, extreme hunger issues, and opportunities for innovation to occur. Some areas of focus will be on
- Best practices for enlisting and organizing the local community actors in the CGN
- Advice on how to recruit private gardens and local farms to participate
- Guidance on securing land and operating a Public Community farm; promoting public farms on school, prison properties; promoting ordinances for new housing developments around securing a residential neighborhood space for residential farming, ..
- Best practices for identifying and enlisting volunteers in the CGN activities
- Programs on growing, preserving and preparing fresh healthy, local produce
- Business models and incentive options for encouraging CGN actors and providing value across the value chain (incentive schemes like produce sharing models: 1/3 Distribution Depots + 1/6 Volunteer Pickers +1/2 stays with land owner)
- Leverages garden and sharing activities already occurring
The STF–CGN Program will also focus on providing tools and kits to support the operations of a CGN by
- Providing each CGN (County level) an online collaboration and innovation space to
- Publish and disseminate best practices, promote progress and results among members, and troubleshoot and collaborate on issues and challenges as they arise.
- Enables the social aspects and community engagement
- Assist in the registration and enrollment of new members,
- Recruitment of volunteers like a scheduling portal (Like Volunteermatch)
- Enables the exchange of produce
- Enabling the creation and distribution of mobile applications which enable the operation of the CGN and the social engagement of the community members.
- Providing specialized kits to support the creation of private/public farms
- Planter boxes (sold by the boy scouts or local schools); Could be connected to some fund raising activities
- Leveraging sponsorship opportunities through the use of Grants/fundraising where financial and service sponsors and content contributors include enthusiasts, corporate businesses, organizations, service and material providers and local experts/organizations; In addition, using retail provider coupons and offers for members (national and local)
- Supporting the community with farm, garden and food-based programming such as courses, workshops, kids’ after-hour and summer camps, accessible demonstration community gardens
The STF–CGN Program will also engage in outreach to promote the adoption of CGNs in communities with local champions, with extreme hunger issues, with locally directed grant funding availability, and opportunities for innovation to occur.
Our first pilot launch is scheduled for this spring for Placer County with the Placer Food Bank as the sponsor. As a proof point of what can be accomplished, Piacentino Farms and Placer Food Back recently organized and sponsored volunteer picker teams to harvest over 1400 pounds of mandarins from a neighborhood property with half of the yield going to the Placer and Auburn Food banks and half to the property owner.
Why it should be recognized:
The “SustainTheFuture.org – Community Garden Network Program” is a county wide model for implementing community based agriculture, healthy eating, and self-sustenance as a building block for the planet. We want to create, and roll out blueprints, best practices, and collaboration models to enable communities to maximize produce production, harvesting, and delivery. Through “Launch and learn” methodologies we aim to enable all counties, states and countries to implement and customize programs for the benefit of their local communities.
The benefits derived from "the communities" that we build go far beyond feeding the hungry and help to ensure self-sustenance in the communities which implement the program. The model allows for replication from county to county and throughout any state, country and of course globally with localization being critical for success in each region of the world. The good news is that the timing is right; Community gardens and the USDA’s People’s Garden initiative are a major part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative http://afsic.nal.usda.gov/farms-and-community/community-gardening. SustainTheFuture.org is interested in leveraging the People’s Garden momentum to build a program around CGN enablement and repeatable recipes for successful implementation and operation of these CGNs. Our first pilot launch is scheduled for this spring for Placer County with the Placer Food Bank as the sponsor.