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Victory Gardens with Skagit County Community Action Agency

05 Jun 2012, by Admin in Farms/ Gardens

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Victory Gardens with Skagit County Community Action Agency

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The main framework of a Victory Gardens program is that outreach is done to connect with local gardeners, who are told that they can donate produce to their food banks. Then they are given information about where to drop off donations. It is good to have a contact who can be called, and tell them where the nearest food bank and/or drop-off site is and when it is open. Thus, it is important when running this program that the main contact has a list of information on all the food banks and drop sites in the area. Putting this information on a brochure or online resource is useful.

Victory Gardens are very similar and in many ways the same as a Plant A Row programs. Plant A Row programs specifically promote gardeners to plant an extra row of food from their garden. Victory Gardens asks growers to donate any food they have in excess. In many cases though, this “extra” food was planted on purpose for the food bank. Thus, the names of these two types of programs are often interchangeable.

Methods of Outreach

Most suburban and rural areas have home gardeners who are willing to donate produce; the most difficult part of this program is simply reaching out to these gardeners and making them aware that they can donate. The main avenues for contacting home gardeners include, but are not limited to:

(A) Gardening/Agricultural events

 
Attending an Event

This is a great way to interact with gardeners in your area. These events are usually announced in the local newspaper or online. When you find out about an event coming up, contact the organizer as soon as possible about being able to table at an event. Most event organizers will not charge you to table if you are a nonprofit and not a vendor.

 
Table Set Up

When tabling at event, you should have a way to attract people to your table to start a conversation. This can include: (1) Giveaways, (2) Games and (3) Interactive Displays 

Information you should have: 

  • Sign-up and/or pledge sheet
  • Information Pamphlets
  • Business Cards

The Victory Gardens program of Community Action created a game to get people to the table. This included color pictures of different foods taped to cardboard to make games pieces, and other pieces that have names of the parts of the plant. To play the game you have to match up the picture of the food with the part of a plant it came from. To make it a challenge we included some challenging produce (like tomato = fruit, and broccoli = flower).

Creating Incentives

For gardener programs, it is more difficult to provide incentives, so you have to be more creative. One great incentive is seeds or plant-start giveaways. These can be used in one of two ways.       

  • As part of a pledge, you can give seed packets to those growers who pledge to try to donate food from their garden. The pledge sheet should include a space for contact information. This allows you to contact growers and remind them of their pledge, and at the end of the season check-in with them to see if they made any donations
  • To spread information you can also simply hand out seed packets with information about the program pasted on them.  When they go to plant the seeds they will be reminded of the program.

Procuring seeds to donate is actually easier than it sounds. Most seed growers want to get rid of last year’s seeds to make room for next year’s inventory. The previous year’s seeds are still viable, and perfectly good for planting. This means that the best time to contact seeds companies is in early winter, when they are trying to get rid of old stock. They should first be contacted with a letter, and then followed up with a phone call in a week. 

(B) Garden Groups

Local groups can be found both online and through extension offices. Contact the group leaders using the contact information you are given. Presentations are ideal because it gives a face to the program and allows you to answer questions. Make sure to have hard copies of all handouts, as most garden meetings are informal, and thus a PowerPoint presentation will be of no use.

(C) Garden Supply Stores

Leaving flyers and pamphlets at local supply stores is another way to reach local growers. It is best to go to the store ahead of time and see if they have an area where flyers or business cards are posted. Bring materials with you when you go and ask around about posting information.

Tracking Donations

Tracking donations from local growers can be a big challenge. You are limited to two options, asking the food banks or asking the growers. You will most likely get more accurate tracking if you use the food banks. You should meet with your local food banks and discuss what tracking method works best for them. Most food banks already need to track all the donations they receive, so it could be as simple as putting VG next to donations that are Victory Gardens. If this does not work, you can instead try to contact the growers who have pledged at the end of the season and ask them how much they have donated. These numbers will be less accurate.