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How do you motivate volunteers?

Posted by pink_overalls z8b NC (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 2, 13 at 21:59

Our town has a new community garden, organized by a dozen people under the parks and recreation department. It is a communal garden rather than one where individual plots are leased. After an initial burst of energy and interest from this core committee, resulting in the garden being planted, we're having a difficult time getting volunteer members to sign up for a more than a 2 hour work session per week for watering, mulching, etc.

How do other gardens styled this way keep people motivated? We're trying to keep the work load equitable so all founding members can share in the harvest fairly, and then sign up paying subscribers next season.

Would it be better if each person were responsible for a different area of the garden, a different crop or group of plants? Would that engage their interest more? Anyone have experience to share about distributing the work load and keeping people motivated?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How do you motivate volunteers?

It's the communal nature that's the issue. Two hours every week for everyone? Sounds oppressive, you might try a rotating schedule. Or Lottery scheduling and trading also works. Or Put out a call for the monthly signups three months ahead of time.

Plots just work better IMNSHO... my plot -- my problems. It's not hard to get into arguments over a communal garden especially over work share and dealing with pests. Hybrid gardens also work ... plots plus a shared area for those that work the shared area.

Altruism is an individual choice. Unless the garden is altruistic in nature and sponsored by an altruistic group (e.g. a church or shelter) beyond the garden, altruistic impulses can kill the garden. In those cases, I recommend that the altruists separate the garden space and are TREATED like an other plot owner. Further, the garden insurance may require the garden organization to not permit giveaways or resale. They don't want to be exposed to lawsuits from people out side the garden's hold harmless clause.

I say this not out of any disrespect to altruists but the arguments that ensue are significant. Organizations that acquire plots for altruistic purposes should be separate from the community garden.

RE: How do you motivate volunteers?

I may be a bit late in chiming in on this, but here goes...

I've been a participant in two community gardens in two different cities, and I agree that people are more willing to participate if it's split into sections for each participant to care for their own plants, and grow what will work for them.

Point blank, why would I want to put my time and effort into a garden that produces a) things I won't eat, b) things I won't GET to eat because they are delicious, and others get to them first, perhaps because I have a tight schedule and can't get there in time?

Signing up for 2 hours a week per person may be too broad a spectrum for people to adhere to, especially for a garden. There are so many fluctuations throughout a season, various tasks that may need more or less than two hours, and so many different schedules for each member for this style of gardening to truly work, IMO.

Regarding caring for the garden as a whole, both gardens I've attended have had scheduled quarterly "garden clean up days," and the manager of these gardens has made sure that each participant puts in the required amount of time for the year. If you don't, you may be kicked out. Beyond that, it's the responsibility of each member to maintain their plot, and the immediate surrounding area throughout the year.

A few things to note: The first community garden I was a member of had people who volunteered to do things they enjoyed: caring for the compost heap that all contributed to; setting up traps for gophers, and giving lessons during the scheduled volunteer hours for others to set up/maintain their own traps.

Scheduled volunteer hours can be/are:
1.. A time for everyone to come together and clean up the areas that aren't a part of the individually allotted spaces.

2. A great opportunity for members to meet their gardening neighbors who have different schedules.

3. Discuss any issues that are occurring in the garden. These may range from pest problems to negative things like stealing (my current community garden is very large and this has been an ongoing problem).

4. A great opportunity for members to share their experiences with others.

I personally think, if the style of garden is changed to an "individual space within the whole," it will work much better in the end, and be truly successful.

I love being a part of my community garden, and having a space where I get to grow what my family eats. Sorry if I've rambled, but I'm passionate about getting back to the basics of growing my own, and a community garden is the ONLY way I get at this point in my life to experience and participate in what I feel is a dying art...

I really hope you are able to work out the issues you're finding in your new community garden to make it work in the long run!

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