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Host a Meeting

Hosting a Community Meeting

One of your first steps should be to host a community meeting for anyone who is interested. This will help you gather volunteers and start to understand any areas of concern.

Plantcheck MarkPreparing for the Meeting

Venue Choose a central, accessible location such as a community centre. Strive for a venue that offers free parking and access for those with limited mobility.

Lead Time Your neighbors will appreciate lots of notice. We suggest you begin promoting the meeting at least one month in advance.  

Getting the Word Out  Promote the first meeting in as many places as you can.  Don't forget about community association newsletters, places of worship, child care centres, Facebook pages, grocery stores and coffee shop bulletin boards, seniors' groups and local non-profits.  We recommend that you hand deliver fliers directly to any residences who face onto the proposed garden site.

Resources  Consider inviting a representative from the Community Garden Resource Network. Our team works with community gardens in every corner of the city and we can introduce the guests to the different types of community gardens and help address many of the questions you receive.

plant check markAt the Meeting
  • Your guests' comfort is important! Arrive early and make sure you have good temperature and air flow.
  • Arrange chairs in a circle. That way everyone can see each other and you create a sense of equality.
  • If possible, provide light snacks or beverages.
  • Set out a clipboard or list for collecting names, phone numbers and email addresses of attendees.  Name tags are helpful.
  • Greet guests as they arrive and make them feel welcome.
  • Begin the meeting by asking guests to introduce themselves and share their reasons for attending, and their hopes for the proposed garden.  Listen carefully.  What gets people excited about the garden? Who has useful skills that might help the garden? What are some of the common concerns?
  • You can help keep the participants focused on the outcomes by incorporating an activity like a visioning exercise. This helps the group define the values, spirit and intentions people have for starting the garden.
  • You can ask the group to brainstorm what words or phrases describe the garden that they hope to establish. Capture the responses and share them on your community garden's website or Facebook page.
  • Provide a short report on where things are at with the garden.

  • Carry out the garden visioning exercise.

  • As the meeting draws to a close,  summarize the next steps and confirm who will be, for example, keeping in touch with the City of Calgary, Community Association, obtaining the letter of support from their City Councillor and so on.
  • Set the date, time and location of the next meeting.
  • Ask participants who are comfortable with it to provide their names and contact information so that they can receive messages by email.

If you follow these simple suggestions, by the time the meeting concludes everyone will know a little about each other and shared a laugh or two.  If people start to chat after the 45-minute meeting adjourns, that is a very successful meeting!

The first meeting is about exploring the idea of a community garden and seeing what level of interest there is in the neighbourhood for a group gardening project.  Many participants will still be deciding whether the proposed garden will be something they want to be involved with, so don't rush into recruiting people to do tasks right away.  Being too task-oriented can scare a lot of people off so wait for a couple of meetings and then start personally asking people to take on small tasks.

plant check markAfter the Meeting

Communicating with gardeners and with the larger community is the most important activity to carry out. Frequent open communication will help stimulate and welcome discussion, address  concerns and create the links to form an emerging garden team.  Make sure there are many ways for residents of all backgrounds to follow the garden's progress.  Some ideas include:

  • Create an email address for the garden using free tools such as Gmail. Decide which 2 gardeners will check for messages and answer them.
  • Start a blog or Facebook page for the garden.  
  • Submit community garden updates to your community association's newsletter.
  • Post signage at the garden site in languages spoken in the neighborhood. Include the garden's email address and how to join the garden.
  • Offer to speak to local service clubs about the garden.  They have a mandate to serve the community and may be able to give volunteer labour and/or financial support.
  • Post notices of upcoming gardeners' meetings on neighborhood event boards.
  • Invite neighbourhood residents to an Open Garden afternoon.

 

With ongoing communications, outline how the garden will operate.  Explain things like:

  • How the garden plot waiting list works
  • What the garden's policy is on pesticides and herbicides
  • What measures will be taken to conserve water
  • Weeding and pest control methods
  • Composting, soil care and waste management practices
  • What will be done to put the gardens to bed at the end of the season

Keep your communications simple and free of gardening jargon. Not everyone speaks English as their first language and many of the your neighbors may not have any prior gardening experience.