Community Garden Structure
From: Melanie Mindlin (
Date: Wed, 9 Sep 2020 08:12:23 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Mama,
I’ve been the main convener/organizer of the community garden at Ashland 
Cohousing since inception 13 years ago.  When we created this community with 
its substantial garden area, I assumed that we would assign plots like most 
community gardens do.  Much to my surprise, the community asked instead to have 
the garden kept as a group project without individual allocations.  What this 
means in practice is:

The community pays for anything we want/need for the garden.
Food is prioritized for community meals. 
Anyone can go and harvest whatever is there unless someone has let us known 
that it is going to be used for a community meal.
Gardeners get first crack at the food because they know what is available and 
are likely to be in the garden to pick it.
We have to be proactive to get the cooks to use food from the garden.
We usually have to harvest the food and bring it door to door to give it away 
if we don’t want to eat it ourselves.
There are just a few of us that care about the garden and do the bulk of the 
The community pitches in occasionally on work days.
The gardeners spend a lot more time on this project than other people do on 
community work (a LOT more).
We’re able to help people experiencing short term food insecurity (as one 
member has due to Covid loss of income).
Generally it has worked out surprisingly well, although the garden can get a 
bit neglected when the enthusiasm of the few wanes.

> On Sep 9, 2020, at 3:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:
> Subject: [C-L]_ Community Garden Structure
> Message-ID:
>       <155858895.328437310.1599521213351.JavaMail.zimbra [at] 
> <mailto:155858895.328437310.1599521213351.JavaMail.zimbra [at]>>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
> Hello: 
> My family are members of a newish cohousing community, Village Hill Cohousing 
> in Northampton, MA. We are working on setting up an organizational structure 
> for our Community Garden space. We would like information, assistance from 
> other cohousing communities regarding the following items based on their 
> experience, organization structure of their Community Garden space. 
> 1) What is an equitable way to assign plots 
At certain times we have assigned plots to individuals who requested some 
private space.  They generally did not take the time to care for that space and 
were able to acknowledge that it should come back to general use amicably.
> 2) Who oversees the Community Garden(eg gardeners have a CG work group or 
> other working structures?) 
The gardeners do get “credit” for their time instead of working on other 
committees.  This is not an equitable distribution of labor as noted above.
> 3) Is there a cost to have a garden plot 
> 4) Who maintains other plant material not related to the Community 
> Garden(watering, pruning, etc) 
We have a whole separate team responsible for seeing that the landscape is 
maintained.  This can be challenging in terms of work needed, and we generally 
hire some of the work either to someone in the community or (rarely) to an 
outside person.  We have some edible landscaping which requires more 
maintenance than other types of plants, and I have been doing that as a “chore 
wheel” task in addition to the gardening.  I’m not sure what would happen if I 
wasn’t willing to volunteer the extra time.

Watering is automated in the landscape, but the system requires extensive 
annual maintenance.  Pruning is haphazard, though we try to get folks to 
maintain the landscaping near their homes themselves.

> 5) What if a gardener is unable to keep up maintenance of their plot 
We have asked that it be returned to the group effort and this has not been 
> 6) How is community share garden within the Community Garden organized 
As described previously, we ask the cooks to use garden produce and sometimes 
harvest for them as well, since they don’t usually have the time to harvest 
when they’re cooking that day.  If cooks plan to use garden produce, they let 
everyone know and we save it for them.  When there is abundance or a big single 
harvest (like garlic), we give everyone a share (or sometimes beg them to take 

> 7) Policy for use and maintenance of tools 
We do maintenance during workdays.  We label them clearly.  We replace them 
when they go missing after asking around.  This can be a bit frustrating, but 
since the community pays for whatever we need without question, it has worked 
out okay.
> 8) Other? 
Good luck.

Melanie Mindlin
Ashland Cohousing
> Any information and assistance in how your various cohousing communities have 
> structured, designed their Community Gardens regarding these items or other 
> items that were found relevant would be much appreciated. 
> Thank you and best wishes for your community, 
> Marna 

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