Monday, November 12, 2012

Recap of the 2012 Northeast Florida Community Gardens Conference

Did you miss the 2012 Northeast Florida Community Gardens Conference?
Don't worry, we put together a recap of the day for you.

Session 1, Housekeeping: The session started with a quick overview of what Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens had accomplished in the last year. 86 gardens across northeast Florida are now listed in the directory. 7 different stories about community gardens were published, three education classes were held, and 3 community events were attend. Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens also joined the, newly formed, Duval County Food Policy Council. Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens will become a project of Second Harvest, with its main focus on keeping the directory and calendar up to date as well as grant opportunities and local resources. Each attendee had a chance to share their main concerns and goals for the coming year. A common concern that arose was recruiting and maintaining volunteers as well as increasing visibility of the gardens in the community. A clear need for sharing resources arose as contacts and phone numbers were exchanged across the room.

Session 2, Show Me the Money: Kevin Monahan from the Small Business Development Center at UNF joined us to discuss increasing visibility and success of a nonprofit. Mr. Monahan highlighted these important points:
  • Marketing and funding is all about storytelling. Be clear about the need in your community, how your nonprofit meets that need, and how your nonprofit could better meet that need with greater support.
  • Be sure to know your local representatives.
  • Be sure your local representatives know the vital role that your nonprofit plays in the community.
  • What are the strategic plans of the school district or town in which you work? Look for ways that the services of your nonprofit will help those goals be accomplished.
  • Nonprofit does not mean a profit can’t be made. Be sure your nonprofit is solvent and run like a business.
  • Use local resources, such as the 3rd floor of the main library that has a dedicated section for nonprofit resources.
Dr. Laureen Husband joined us from Healthy Jacksonville with the Duval County Health Department. Dr. Husband provided valuable information about what to consider when applying for grants, such as making sure your nonprofit is equipped to handle the amount of money for which you are applying and being clear about your goals and objectives. The most important piece of advice from both Mr. Monahan and Dr. Husband was the need for community partnerships and collaboration. Funders want to support projects that will have the most impact and the widest reach.

Session 3, Keynote Speaker: Dr. Laura Lane joined us from the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc on behalf of their new Jax2025 initiative. Dr. Lane talked about community engagement from a proactive standpoint. Community gardens should consider these 5 principles when looking to increase engagement in their projects:
  • Vision: Share your dream with the world! Make it clear where you are going and why you need to go there.
  • Process: Change takes time, so have clear indicators along the way. Success begets success, and people always want to be on the winning team. Keeping focused on the incremental successes along the way keeps your vision clear and the team’s moral high.
  • Recruitment: Shout from the rooftops what you are doing! You never know who knows who and what connections people have so always be ready to talk about your program. Dr. Lane made a great analogy to pollination; in order to ensure success you must travel everywhere to spread your message.
  • Retention: Supporters want to know that change is happening, which means you must instill in them a sense of confidence that the needle is being moved. Celebrate your successes and revisit your vision often.
  • Leadership: There are three critical components to being an effective leader:
    1. Take responsibility – Don’t pass the buck, no matter what. People want to work with people who can be relied upon.
    2. Always show up – People want to know you are reliable and they can count on you. A leader is always on the front lines with their troops.
    3. Listen actively – A leader can facilitate any conversation, and enable commonalities and consensus to bubble to the surface.
Session 4, School Gardens, More Than Fun and Games: Steve Mendenhall joined us from Biltmore Elementary School to discuss the Junior Master Gardener Program. His presentation walked us through the first year of his school garden program. Mr. Mendenhall’s easy going and forthcoming attitude will bring confidence to even the most hesitant group looking to start a garden. Mr. Mendenhall also touched on the theme of collaboration and partnership, when he brought to light the needs of schools and the community’s desire to help. Building a bridge between the schools and the community will take some work, but it is possible and Mr. Mendenhall is a great resource for learning how to make that happen.

Session 5, Community Garden Initiative: We learned about the new Community Garden Initiative from Katie Salz, the Community Garden Program Manager with Second Harvest North Florida. As Second Harvest is working to meet the growing need for food in north Florida they are looking for ways to address the problem closer to the source. Their program is focused on working with community gardens that are already established. Second Harvest will work to provide seeds, seedlings, and volunteers as well as funding opportunities to community gardens willing to grow food for the food bank and their partner agencies. Second Harvest will also help to create community gardens that are willing to donate to the food bank or their partner agencies.

Session 6, Sharing the Harvest: Ms. Devon Ritch of Beaches Local Food Network and Mr. Greg Tison of the Jacksonville Farmers' Market were on hand to discuss considerations for starting a market. A primary focus of Ms. Ritch and Mr. Tison was around clarity of the market’s mission. It is important to work closely with vendors to ensure vendors adhere to the objectives of the market, whether it is about a farms’ proximity to the market or allowing the sale of non-food items such, as arts and crafts.

For more information please contact the Community Gardens Program at
 Second Harvest North Florida: