Managing garden-to-table gardens
From: Mark Thompson (
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2017 01:20:31 -0700 (PDT)

Please excuse the terseness of my response.  I'm responding quickly in the
hope that something is better than nothing for you.
Here we have a number of fruit trees on common property which are free to
all.  Our vegetable and flower garden produce is for sale to members and
free for use in common meals.
The garden consists of four fenced plots, fenced to keep the cute varmints
out (deer and rabbits).  Two plots are traditionally organized into a total
of 21 approximately 3' by 18' rows.  The other two plots are more chaotic
and smaller, but quiet productive and well-loved.
The garden is financially self-sustaining with the profits being used to
invest in infrastructure, tools, and supplies, not to mention seedlings and
starts.  The infrastructure now includes the fencing for the enclosures, a
full set of tools and wheelbarrows, a greenhouse and garden shed,
irrigation, and pathways.
There is a lot of community involvement on a periodic basis.  We have two
work parties a year which include major work in the gardens.  We usually
have a third work party, but sometimes it is predominantly made up of
Greenscape Team members.
The garden management is under the auspices of the Greenscape Team, which
as the name implies is responsible for more than the gardens.
Historically, as I understand it, we have mostly had one or two people who
are the primary drivers of garden management and planning.  During early
growth and planting a few others get involved, including the pre-teen
When the new Greenscape Team forms each year the general plan for the
garden is discussed and what direction is desired.  Based on those
decisions planning for the garden with plant rotation in mind begins.  This
is a much more complex and involved process than I would have imagined as a
very infrequent gardener.
Recent challenges have involved trying to get the produce picked at the
proper time.  Also others like me who are hesitant to pick produce that I
haven't been specifically taught to pick.
This past year we did a major restructuring of one of the garden sections.
We cleared an existing garden area and changed it from a more organic
appearance to being rectangular with a 7' fence.  We did this unilaterally
as the Greenscape Team.  This ruffled a number of feathers as is obvious in
retrospect.  What we should have done and are planning to do going forward
are bring major structural changes before the community for discussion and
consensus approval.
One other final challenge is getting the necessary number of people to
commit to specific tasks that need to be done at particular times.  Not
doing so puts a significant stress on the few who are doing those tasks at
that time.  This, as I see it, is part of the nature of gardening when it
isn't structured as a business.  I have found my own past gardens suffering
from neglect at times, especially weeding.
Overall I think our system functions well.  We have even managed recently
to transition the primary garden management from the person who has done it
for many years, but has chosen this time to step back from that
responsibility and focus their energy elsewhere.
One final point you asked.  None of the garden or greenscape positions are
paid.  We have the same basic team organization that Melanie mentioned with
everyone being on 2 teams, one if you are a convener.  This results in a
disproportionate amount of time being spent on team work.  However, this is
the best system we have tried so far.
Sharingwood began in the late 80's early 90's, depending on what document
you look at, and has 28 households with a fair number of renters.

I hope this has been helpful, if not as terse as I expected.  Looking
forward to hearing how your garden team grows.

Moose Thompson
Sharingwood Cohousing
Snohomish, WA

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