Sustainability Training Success Story
Community Gardens serve as a tool to improve food insecurity and provide nutrition education. They also strengthen community relationships! These communal spaces have been especially important during the COVID pandemic. They allow an opportunity for connection and provide an activity that can be meditative and restorative. To empower community garden leaders and encourage sustainability, on-going learning is vital.
Brett Sheppard with the UNC Food, Fitness, and Opportunity Research Collaborative (FFORC), a SNAP-Ed Implementing Agency, organized a series of 4 Sustainability Trainings for Community Garden leadership. The trainings span across 9 counties. They help leaders build on management skills and find funding and support opportunities. FFORC has been engaging in partnerships with these gardens for 8 years, and this is the third sustainability training implemented.
The Community Garden leaders that partner with FFORC span across a variety of counties in the state of North Carolina. They take on enormous responsibility and provide an opportunity for community members to become empowered through self-sustainable gardening and nutrition skills. In the past, the training was hosted in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's training had to be adapted to a virtual space and was held over Zoom. Garden leaders do not have many opportunities to connect with each other and share best practices. This made it important that the training engaged leaders and encouraged collaboration. A goal of this training was give community garden leaders support in organizational development, funding, and outreach.
To make the training engaging, it was separated into 4 different sessions during the months of September and October. The sessions included:
- Community Garden Manager Introductions + Americorps presentation on programs supporting community-based initiatives
- Developing a Mission Statement hosted by Alyssa McKim of NC A&T
- Orienting Managers to Sustainability Planning Templates + Goal Setting
- Video Premiere of Community Garden Sites
Attendees included 13 Community Garden leaders in addition to guest speakers. The virtual programming allowed guests from NC A&T and Americorps to join in the sessions and share programming and opportunities for the garden leaders.
In past trainings, co-learning and information sharing by the community garden managers was as rich as the information delivered by presenters. Fortunately, even in a virtual environment, this element was very strong and encouraged everyone to participate.
Community garden management in a rural setting with low-income populations can be very challenging.
Sheila Smith of Garland Community Garden said that before the training, she had been feeling burnout and questioning whether to continue in the role. Connecting with her peers and hearing their stories gave given her strength and inspiration to continue on.
Victor Hunt of Green Duke Community Garden expressed appreciation for the opportunity to craft a sustainability plan for FY22. He said it would keep him focused on all the steps necessary to achieve his group’s goal.
Although formal sustainability trainings will not take place each year, this experience of hosting garden leaders in a virtual environment – alongside the richness of co-learning and sharing – has led our team to decide to host a round table with them at least once per year. It will be an opportunity to bring everyone together to share their stories.
The framework indicators used include MT5 Nutrition Supports and LT10 Planned Sustainability.
For more information, contact Brett Sheppard, Project Manager for the UNC Chapel Hill FFORC SNAP-Ed implementing agency. To learn more about this and other FFORC programs, visit https://hpdp.unc.edu/fforc/.