Written by Mike McMahon, Founder of Urban Farming Education
The most important aspect of what we do is the development of long-term programs for our clients. In my years of building communities, nothing bothers me more than looking back to see areas that are not used or maintained. Sometimes, communities grow older and have no need for a playground anymore, and sometimes a tremendous amount of space is wasted on grass areas that no one uses, but that end up wasting water. There are so many vegetable gardens built or attempted at schools and homes that end up lacking attention and support because a solid program was not developed.
We talked to clients about WHY they want to build or have a garden, and after careful thought and
feedback came up with five main reasons: sustenance (food), ecotherapy, education, positive social impacts and to create a for-profit garden business. These reasons are not always mutually exclusive, and we find that many of the gardens we build incorporate several if not all those reasons. Please see a more detailed explanation of the reasons in the “Why We Exist” tab of our website.
Each garden is different in size, scope, and purpose, but the methodology is the same for every garden.The process of developing a program starts with determining the interest level of participants and what they want to accomplish. We have created a workbook to help our clients make important early decisions and walk them through the building process step by step. This guidebook is then used to help the project gardeners follow a road map that is aligned with the goals of their respective organization.
We decided that a successful garden would have to have a farmer/gardener and an outspoken advocate of the program. Through trial and error, we also set criteria for each site to include a kitchen and chef. When produce is ready to harvest, it needs to be cleaned, packed, cooled, and ultimately prepped and cooked. Each garden also needs to have people who can enjoy eating the bounty. We incorporate these elements to create a program that ensures continuity and sustainability.