Monday, February 16, 2015

SACG Board Meets to Set 2015 Agenda for Seventh Gardening Season

It wasn't only love in the air this Valentine's Day.  There was also snow and talk of gardening.  On Saturday, February 14, 2014, the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden Board of Trustees met at noon at Zoe's in Bexley (since our regular meeting place at Cup O'Joe's is tragically closed).  The meeting was attended by Rayna, Frank, Cathy, Neal and Priscilla.  

Since our 2014 Closing Day, the SACG received two large boxes of donated children's books from Half Price Books, which I used to re-stock our Free Little Library before Christmas and the long Martin Luther King and President's Day holiday weekends.    When I was there on Friday, the Library was practically empty. Susan and I have also been busy recruiting new gardeners for our 2015 gardening season.  Franklin Park Conservatory donated numerous packets of vegetable seeds for our upcoming gardening season.   Strader's Nursery also donated several bags of tulip and daffodil bulbs, which I picked up at December's GCGC meeting at the FPC.   Susan and I planted them around the SACG the following weekend.   I also attended the annual February Columbus City Land Bank Community Garden meeting (where they had lots of interesting announcements, some of which are mentioned below) and the GCGC meeting at the Columbus Foundation (discussing the annual City-County community garden grant process).

1.      Election of Board members.   Cathy was re-elected to another term.  Joe and Charlie have elected to not renew their terms again.   Susan Tomlinson was voted to join the Board if she is interested (and she accepted on Sunday).  We could use another Board member (who does not need to Garden with us).   We also need a new Treasurer (who need not belong to the Board), preferably an accountant or CPA who lives in or near Bexley (so that deposits can be made easily). 

2.      The Board re-affirmed our Conflicts of Interest Policy (first adopted in February 2012).  

3.      Selection of dates for our Opening and Closing dates.   We considered when to open the Garden for our seventh growing season: April 11 or March 28.  Some factors we needed to consider:

● OSU offered us student volunteers for March 28 (but may already be full).    

● The Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting that March will be wetter and cooler than usual, but the last three days will be cool and sunny.  It is predicting a warmer and drier April.   

 ● Bill Kelly from ABC6/FOX28 predicts a warmer than normal  March, April and May, but had no idea how much rain we'll be getting.
               Neal is going to be out of town on both dates, but agreed to make up his time.   Frank, Rayna and I know that we want to grow early Spring crops (i.e., peas, lettuce,  spinach) and so are opting for an early March 28 date. 

For our closing date, we noted that the last two years have seen an early onset of winter weather, although we've been lucky to have good weather the second Saturday of November.  This year, that would be November 14 -- which would be our latest closing date ever.   Unlike past years, we won't have a OSU football bye week.  Our closing day is usually our single largest food pantry donation (which we like to make as close to Thanksgiving as possible).   So, for now,  we're tentatively keeping our closing date that second November weekend, but may move it up a week or two depending on the time of day the OSU football game is scheduled and the weather forecast.  

4.      Tilling.  We elected to till the Garden this year (since we did not do so last year).  Frank will pick up a tiller and may till it before our Opening Day if he has time (and weather permitting, of course).  

5.      Newsletter.  We approved the draft of the Grapevine newsletter to distribute in the neighborhood, and had no changes for our Garden Agreement, Garden Rules or Board bylaws. 

6.      Wood chips.  Our new neighbor has fenced in the lot to the west of us where we usually have our annual wood chip supply dumped.  So, we discussed where we could have the wood chips dumped this year.  Our first choice would be in the eastern part of the lot to the south of us, or directly across the street, on top of the old concrete block driveway.  (The problem with across the street is that it is across the street and we use wheelbarrows.  When the neighborhood kids participate, they prefer to steer wheelbarrows). The Block Watch again leased both lots, so we have our choice of places.   We are concerned that the truck may bury our blueberries if the chips are dumped north of the Garden along the alley.   

7.   The City announced this month that it is working with Rebuilding Together for each Land Bank community garden organization to receive a $250 voucher from the Home Depot in Grove City.  We will want to purchase a picnic table, security chain, and bags of compost.   We could also get additional fruit trees, but Home  Depot charges $90/tree, compared to $35-40 by Oakland Nursery.  This makes it more cost effective to use grant funds to purchase more fruit trees.   We could put the picnic table in front of or behind the shed.  With our neighbor's new fence, we do not anticipate any more foot traffic on that side of the Garden.  (We also will need to improve the berry brambles near Rayna's plot to keep thieves from climbing our neighbor's fence in order to jump over our shorter fence).     We could also use a few bags of potting soil to top off the platform raised beds, peat moss for the blueberries, and garden soil to top off the raised beds.  We have to place our order by March 31.  

8.   The City is also arranging for the donation of 1-2 cubic yards of premium top soil from Kurtz Brothers. The issue is how to get it to the Garden.  This is essentially enough to fill a pick-up truck.  While it's relatively easy to pick up, it takes a few hours to shovel out the truck. We discussed how much effort we could save if we put a tarp in the bottom of the truck.  The City is also exploring additional delivery options.  

9.   The City-County  community garden grant is due by February 23.  We could use funding to purchase three fruit trees and to pay for the disposal of the concrete debris we've been stacking along the alley to the north of the Garden.   While there is sentimental attachment to the our stone curb along the alley (because we dug all of those rocks out of the Garden by hand), that area becomes very weedy every year and is difficult to weed.    We only have $410 in our account, which we will be using to purchase incidental supplies (like straw and herbicide) and possibly a large delivery of compost.  Scotts Miracle-Gro also donates mulch and garden soil, but the process of getting it delivered makes it almost too much trouble to accept.  Clean Turn used to deliver, but it's too much work for one organization.  FPC insists that all of the regional community gardens pick up the product on the same day (April 22 - rain or shine) at FPC -- and on a weekday when virtually all of our volunteers are at work at their day jobs.   Because the pick ups are first-come-first-served (instead of being scheduled), some organizations have to wait hours and hours before they can pick up their product donation.  Marge told me at the GCGC meeting this month that her garden ended up paying $250 last year for a few guys to rent a truck and pick it up; the truck cost was incidental, but the labor cost was so high because they had to wait 4 hours to pick up the donation at FPC.  

10.   We have not gotten anticipated use out of our platform raised garden beds.  Instead of transferring/donating one of them to another community garden, the Board decided to place it next to our new picnic table (and to tie them together with a heavy chain -- which we will get from Home Depot) to keep either of them from walking away.  The kids could plant flowers in it and would be able to tend it when we are not around.   Then, we can use the plot where it is currently located to grow more food and use the bed's bench as a third bench for the picnic table. 

11.   WEP program.  We discussed whether to renew with the WEP program.  They want us to agree to new terms: increased recordkeeping/document retention re: WEP volunteers.  The WEP volunteers need to volunteer 24 hours/month (which generally works out to 6 hours/week).  I've been having them work 4 hours on Saturdays and 2 hours on Wednesdays.  It is obviously time consuming to have to be at the Garden for 4 hours on Saturdays and to always show up on time in case the WEP volunteers show up (which they generally do not).  However, the WEP volunteers are a big help when they show up, particularly with mowing grass, picking berries, and watering.  The Board strongly supports the WEP program, but agreed that it was too much for one person to administer.  So, they suggested that it become an assigned chore for a different gardener to have to supervise the WEP volunteer for one of the days instead of me supervising both days each week.  

12.   Frank is planning on bracing the front gate.   I need to schelack our front sign since it has greatly faded. 

13.   Lawn Sign.  Our lawn sign disintegrated last year.  It contains information about our web site and my email address.  We elected to replace it, but to hang it from the fence or gate instead of placing it in the lawn.  This will be slightly less expensive and will not be in the way when we mow.   I like for people driving by to know how to reach me if they want to join the Garden since they might not otherwise know our web address, receive our newsletter or read the Bexley News.  I will shop around locally to see if I can find a better price than the $38 charged by Staples.   

14.   Earth Day.  I signed us up with Green Columbus for April 25 and  requested refreshments, fruit trees, trash bags, gloves, and litter grabbers.  I have also arranged for local members of the Ohio State Bar Association Labor & Employment Section Council to volunteer that day.  

15.   Fence.  We are big fans of our new neighbor's six foot fence.  This will deter produce thieves.   We did not think that we were permitted to install a chain link fence under the terms of our lease, but the City did not object to his fence. Frank suggested that we save up for our own fence, but Neal thought he could get some donated.  (We would still need to buy the poles and hire a post digger).  November would be the best time to install it (so that we can cut the brambles way back in order to pull out the existing fence, dig fence post holes and install the new fence).  We will probably need permission from NEAC and will want our fence to match our neighbor's.    I don't think our fence is inadequate everywhere, but we will want a uniform appearance.  Our current fence sags in places and doesn't look very good in the off season (like now).  

16.    The City is willing to sell us the lot on which we have our Garden.  Of course, we would have to then pay property taxes (at least for the first year until we get a charitable exemption).  The City would also give us credit towards the purchase price for improvements we make on the lot.  I wondered why we would want to give up being a Land Bank garden with all of the benefits that come with it.  (There were 70 Land Bank community gardens last year).
17.   The Board members were encouraged to use their Kroger's Plus card to benefit the SACG and to make their purchases through since a tiny portion of every purchase benefits the SACG and every little bit helps.
We then dug our cars out of the snow in the parking lot and made our way home (or to work).
After the meeting, I realized that I had forgotten to include certain announcements (which I had to share with the Board after the meeting):
  • The City Health Department has become concerned with the mosquitoes that might be breeding in land bank community garden rain cisterns.  (The City provided us with funds to purchase a 500 gallon tank and loans us a 350 gallon tank).  This year, the Department will be inspecting the tanks and putting something in them to kill mosquito larvae.  This prompted a discussion about what chemicals will be used since many gardens are organic and we are concerned about the effect certain chemicals have on our plants and produce.
  • The City's Parks and Recreation Department has 7 benches looking for a good community garden home.
  • GCGC is organizing a road/bus trip to Cleveland on August 1 to tour various community gardens there. Cardinal Bus Lines is providing the transportation at $35. 
  • OSU is publishing a local foods guide and will include a free listing of any community garden that sells produce directly to consumers (like a farmer's market).  Contact Mike Hogan at Franklin County Extension for more details.
  • OSU is offering another popular urban agriculture class in the Fall.   It will start earlier this year to take advantage of daylight.
  • OSU will be organizing an urban farm tour in August as part of local foods week.
  • For the City-County community garden grants this year, the city is contributing $25K and the County $20k (of federal funds).   Priority is given to gardens in low income census tracts and to produce gardens that benefit low income residents.  Because there are comparatively few county applicants, it was recommended that city gardens partner with a county church or garden in a grant application to improve their odds.  Also, while critical needs of new gardens still receive funding priority, there may be funds available this year (for the first time) for aesthetic projects, like trellises, benches, lighting, etc.    Last year, the average grant was for $1500.  Awards will be announced at the end of March or early April.  The grant report is due by November 1.