1) It would be helpful that when the County demolishes buildings on its land bank properties that the foundations be dug out before turning them over to gardens. Otherwise, we spend a few years digging out concrete, bricks and other debris by hand (just like our forefathers dug out tree stumps and stones from our farmland). Mr. O’Grady seemed to be completely unaware of the condition in which these demolished properties are left and how much work the Burmese gardeners have faced in cleaning out the FCCS site on Gantz Road.
2) Although the grant program is very helpful, last year some gardens received too little funds to make any meaningful difference. Thus, it is a good idea to provide more funds to fewer gardens in order to make a greater impact. The sole exception would be that $500 grants would go a huge way to solving the water problem facing most gardens. The SACG received a 550 gallon rain tank/cistern in 2010 and it was a game changer. Every garden should have one. Rain barrels are nice, but can be drained in just a day or two with multiple gardeners. Moreover, Rain Brothers gets their tanks from a local manufacturer in Lancaster – which is a boost to our local economy.
3) Anything the County can do to help us with raising our own compost would be greatly appreciated. The Ohio EPA is against us forming partnerships with local businesses (like coffee shops and restaurants) to obtain coffee grounds and fruit/vegetable waste to add to our compost bins. Being able to grow our own compost (and possibly even selling some like Growing Power does to fund our other activities) would go a very long way to making community gardening sustainable. Another discussion ensued about the potential monopoly being given to Eartha Ltd to grow compost from area restaurant waste and then which is then sold and transported out of the county.
4) Encouragement was given to increasing the amount of funds allocated to community gardening by comparing the current local budget to that of the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Compost is expensive, as is fencing (to keep out critters and poachers), etc.
5) The community gardens with large tracts of land could benefit from use of the County’s new tractor. After all, they will only need it once or twice a year. Couldn’t they lend or lease it to GCGC every now and then each Spring and Fall?
6) Commissioner O’Grady suggested that a one-day conference be held to bring together garden leaders and community leaders to share information needs and resources.
7) Commissioner O’Grady also emphasized that all non-profits, including gardens, need to find other sources of income to sustain themselves because the government will not be able to support them as it has in the past. We need to have financial plans with alternative sources of income. (Again, letting us grow and sell compost would be helpful in this regard). Similarly, funding for hoop houses/high tunnels would help us raise funds by selling financially lucrative winter produce, like lettuce, tomatoes and kale, etc.