People often ask when they stop by – so who works here? On-site volunteer workers include an average of 80 people p.a ( approx 15 p er week) and 3-4 paid staff . Paid staff are in my view critical to the capacity development, maintenance and stability of a community garden and provide the support and resources required by volunteers and the community. We have three main volunteer days – Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tuesday is often spent off site on our two other sites and Friday is set aside for meetings and administration. Our weekend is Sunday and Monday so in the summer, help with watering on those days is much appreciated. . The work, like that of any small farm is incredibly varied and suits those of a practical bent.
The rewards for volunteers working here on a regular basis are free resources ( plants, produce, preserves, compost etc..) and a free lunch twice a week. There are naturally other intangible and intrinsic rewards such as companionship, social support and learning. Enjoying lunch from the crops grown is important in order to enjoy the fruits of our labour and gives us time to sit down and talk about the work and relax together. At this time of the year we are having soup and toast made from autumn produce stored in the freezer and root crops growing in the garden now. In summer we have salad and rolls. We function as a workplace with a lunch break – so its back to work until afternoon tea-break, after which most volunteers head off. The average time spent here is 4 hours – usually 10.30 – 2.30. In the summer months we can still be working at sundown if the mood and weather takes us.
So what do we do on rainy days? We make pickles and preserves for fundraising, process seeds, clean and tidy the resource centre and sheds and have a covered potting shed so a bit of weather means we can get other work done and carry on with propagating plants.
If you take a look at our statistics page you will notice that a relatively small number of 80 volunteers facilitate the opportunity for the majority ( 4500+ ) of other participants visiting for plants and produce, advice and recreation, dropping off recycling, and for education ( school visits, student placements etc..) or professional purposes. These people are as much participants as the volunteers and staff, are important to us and help us contribute to our goal of supporting a sustainable community. We provide resources and grow crops for the wider community who participate by accessing them . While the number of these participants we can reasonably count is up to 5000 people, I would estimate that we provide services for an additional 5000 people in terms of indirect and passive benefit. That’s 10,000 – the standard size for a ‘community’ or’ neighbourhood’ for research purposes.
We very much enjoy interacting with people utilising the site as a resource. I personally enjoy engaging with strangers. Even discussing our harvesting policy with plunderers is satisfying in the sense that these exchanges need to be done face to face to back up the various notices about harvesting and to model ( or at least experiment with) what a trust-based economy might look like in the flesh.
In the previous post I spoke of the less than desirable attitude of those few who act disdainfully towards the workers here while helping themselves to produce. Detachment from or avoidance of face to face interaction with real people is a growing problem in our society. Community gardens create opportunities for participation in neighbourhood productivity and purposeful interaction while educating about fair sharing and trust in an increasingly competitive society.