Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Community First! Gardens Project

UPDATE: 08/05/2009
The little Cordata raised-bed garden is fried, toasted, finished, wiped-out, exhausted for the season. The garden spots there are small, like raised flower beds really and a new garden to the community just this year. Initially the beds were filled with too many layers of cardboard and then several inches of soil that has turned out to be rather poor in quality. In spite of all the hard work the neighborhood has put in, as with all new gardening efforts, it will most likely take several more growing seasons for these gardens to become established enough to produce a healthy vegetable crop.
Some of the gardeners put in plant starts purchased from local nurseries or those that they had started at home earlier in the season, and others planted their gardens with seeds. Regardless of how their plants were started, the majority of the little gardens at the Cordata Community Gardens have grown extremely slow with many plants suffering stunted growth and other plants suffer some sort of strange dwarfism.
Built with treated lumber yet billed as an "organic" garden, the soil was ordinary soil from Wal-Mart and not "organic" either. That soil filling our garden beds now may have trace amounts of those wood-preserving chemicals leaching in as well. Does anyone know if those "wood-treating" chemicals can cause slow plant growth and dwarfism? Would you serve dwarfed vegetables harvested from garden beds treated with wood-preserving chemicals to your children?
Vegetable plants growing in those beds, already stressed from just the general conditions at the garden itself, hardly had a chance once the weather turned extremely hot. Add in an extreme algae bloom in the lake that provides the water, first a voluntary and then a mandatory water restriction imposed, it really is no surprise that many of the little Cordata gardens are pretty much finished for the season - already! Many other gardeners there have expressed that they have experienced similar slow growth, stunting and dwarfing results, and for many of us, participation in the Cordata Community Gardens really has been a very disappointing experience.
Meanwhile, even during the extreme summer heat and citywide mandatory water restrictions, my garden at the Happy Valley Community Gardens seems to be thriving. All the gardens there are thriving and gardening efforts there have paid off! Check this link out to see for yourself - http://really-rose.blogspot.com/2009/08/blooms-in-garden-and-lake.html.
UPDATE 04/15/2009
Turns out, neither the Cordata Community Gardens nor the Cordata Neighborhood Association had ever submitted 501c not-for-profit paperwork, so even though they called themselves a "not-for-profit" organization, they weren't. Thus, the gardens really had not been qualified to accept any of the grants they had already been awarded, and started being told they weren't a "not-for-profit" and turned down for other grants each time they submitted an application elsewhere.
Scurrying around and bickering between the board members and the committee members running the garden, rumors at the garden quickly spread about how the local Boys and Girls Club 501c number ended up being used for the Cordata Community Gardens (because one of the Cordata Neighborhood Association co-presidents is also on the Board for the Boys and Girls Club) so that the gardens would not have to return the WSU Mary Redmond or the City of Bellingham Small and Simply Grants monies they had alread received - and spent. Is that really legal?! I'm kind of curious how that one would play out in an audit!
Not long after those rumors flew around, over half of the neighborhood association board members resigned from their positions on the board. Yet, to this day, they continue to oversee the operations and manage the monies at the gardens. All with good intentions I am sure, but is there something just a little wrong with this picture?
Making the gardening experience at the Cordata Community Gardens even more discouraging, one day while there pulling weeds from in and around my little garden spot, one of the co-presidents of the Cordata Neighborhood Association, Bev, came by the gardens to take her own private tour. She stopped at my garden spot to visit with me as I worked and informed me how the people in charge of this garden had received monies from the Cordata Neighborhood Association and had not paid those monies back yet.
Bev went on to tell me how that money had been a "loan" as "seed" money to get the garden up and running - that it had totally wiped out the bank account for the neighborhood association - and had been intended as a short-term loan just until the gardens could obtain some funding of their own. She said that there would be no more cooperation between the neighborhood association and the committee overseeing the gardens because those overseeing the gardens had declined to pay that "loan" back. After Bev finished "chatting" with me, she went on to tell her story to a few of the other gardeners that just happened to be there working that afternoon too.
Absolutely amazing! All I really wanted to do was to save my family a few precious dollars this year by growing my own fresh, healthy veggies to put on our dinner table during these difficult economic times. I had no clue that I was stepping into a beehive of politics and board members and garden organizers unable to work together more pleasantly!
Anxious for spring, it does seem appropriate to call us "gung-ho". It feels exciting to be able to participate at such a beginning, "dirt-level" in the building of this community garden. Ready to push up our sleeves and grab our shovels and rakes as we head out for sign-up and planning meetings, we really are ready for spring and this wonerful new community project!
First Grant Recipient - (January 2009)

Community First! Gardens enthusiastically announces the selection of the Guide Meridian/Cordata neighborhood as its first grant recipient. As the chosen neighborhood, GM/C will receive up to $5,000.00 for the development of a community garden. For information about the Cordata Community Garden, please contact the steering committee of the Cordata Community Garden at cordatagardens@yahoo.com.
Mission and Goals

The Community First! Gardens Project (CF!G) supports neighborhoods in creating and maintaining community gardens in which residents can grow their own food.

CF!G Project goals are to help expand access to community gardens, thereby increasing self-sufficiency and local food security with nutritious, fresh produce; to provide opportunities for environmental education and stewardship of land; and to help create neighborhood gathering places that are welcoming to all, while fostering cooperative, community-building relationships within neighborhoods.

1 comment:

  1. Never, ever, ever built garden beds with treated lumber!!!!! While Federal regulations changed the chemicals used to treat the lumber, it is still poison and should not be used around any plants that you would want to eat. Those chemicals will kill! They are not organic!

    Your lucky day was when the heatwave came and fried the plants.

    Fortunately you have that other organic garden on the other side of town. It looks great over there and I know you're eating healthy stuff grown yourself!


Thanks for commenting!