The question in “We Want Your Opinion,” “Should the City of Cottonwood continue to provide land for a community garden?” doesn’t begin to cover the issue.
Providing land and water is only a beginning. What the city has provided is really wonderful: fertile bottom land, free water, water line in and hose bibs installed for the plots. But the next piece, the development and administration of the garden, is woefully lacking.
Having developed and administered several community gardens in the Phoenix area, I know it is imperative that a community garden be a true Community of Gardeners. A successful garden provides the expertise to teach new gardeners to be successful, holds regular meetings where gardeners discuss and learn, sometimes from speakers, but also from each other, allows the gardeners to vote for officers who deal with the details of the garden, such as weed and insect control, proper planting times and techniques, fund-raising for projects deemed necessary by the gardeners and for the gardeners. And always, have fun growing their own food.
As a member of the American Community Garden Association, I attended conferences in cities across the country so I know what a great benefit this type of garden can be for a community. Cottonwood could and should have a great garden but only if the city takes the necessary steps to ensure the garden is developed and administered by people who are directly involved in the day-to-day operation, have the necessary knowledge and expertise about gardening in this area and are willing and able to meet with the gardeners to develop a democratically run project.
A board that formed an LLC, at the city’s request, but has meetings closed to the gardeners, no financial disclosure and evidently no real experience with raising vegetables in this area, is not a formula for a successful garden.
In a meeting I had with City Manager Doug Bartosh, he expressed a desire to have the Cottonwood Community Garden run democratically. It is time for the city to take the necessary steps to ensure the garden is administered by people competent to do just that, not just provide a piece of land.
Past President of the Scottsdale College Community Garden
Former developer and administrator for St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Garden Projects.