My first post here. I've been completely enlightened and inspired by reading through the forums and decided to join the fun. My family lives in a fantastic historic district in a downtown area. It has it's challenges, but we love it and are looking to be a solution to the problems in our city. We've started a food forest in our backyard and plan to share the overflow with neighbors and encourage them to do the same. Looking to add more raised beds and chickens in the spring, and a basketball hoop for our kids and kids in the area. I have other projects in mind but one step at a time. We're looking at ways in which we can help our city... lots of drug-related crime, abandoned houses and poverty in our neighborhood and adjoining neighborhoods. I've identified three vacant lots (about 1/10 acre each) around the corner from us that can be bought cheaply with my own funds and have access to water. We already have a community garden in our neighborhood so don't want to replicate that. I'm considering ways to use this space to build community, encourage local food production & sharing, and potentially make some money and provide a part-time or full-time job. It's all still evolving in my head. Ideas include wilderness play area, compost site, greenhouse (hydroponics), demonstration garden/food forest, outdoor eating/gathering/cooking area, neighborhood market. I am concerned about stuff being stolen and whether to gate-off or not, but will have to work through that. In terms of funding, I'm looking into public/private grants, property tax abatement, local store donations, seed donations etc. I'm in coordination with our city about zoning laws and what can/can't be done on these residential lots.
There are hundreds of vacant lots across the city, many of which are useable and can be converted into some productive/community-building space. I'd love to see more people see these lots as opportunities rather than curses. A large coordinated effort to turn it around is ripe for the picking. If you have any resources or ideas to share, my hands are wide open.
Hi Scott and welcome!
In Dayton, your Extension Office is connected with OSU. They would be another good group to brainstorm; they often have access to funding and currently plenty of funding is available for urban growing.
Here's their contact info:
Montgomery County Extension
County Government Office
Address: 1001 S Main St, Dayton, OH 45409
Phone: 937 224-9654
Check out the Urban Farming Guys. They're doing what you're in the process of setting up in Lykins, Kansas City. So far they've bought and renovated abandoned houses, transformed several abandoned lots into community gardens, run an after-school art program, and have recently started up a Maker Space. Tons and tons of cool stuff. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to give you some help.
So realistic steps to look at:
1) create a family trust to own all of your land,cars, important assets (this keeps people from suing you and getting everything you own or are paying for). Legalees is a great resource for asset protection info (ask for the free DVD he did if its not on Youtube).
2) Start a non-profit. Takes incorporation to get 501c3, unless you are a church/religious/spiritual organization (churches are automatically 501c3 at their start).
Rent your family trust land to the 501c3, you are hired as the director/spiritual leader, kids can have their own company that rents garden and farm equipment to the 501c3 - thier money goes into a college savings account and might be tied to a dollar match program in your area, all tax free. The 501c3 owns nothing, it rents it all from your family and friends - buildings, land, vehicle, tools, office and computer equipment, EVERYTHING.
You have to have a 501c3 to get most of the grant funding out there, except for USDA ag grants, and then you have to follow all of the guidelins and reporting that they require. But the funding will allow you to build, buy, hire, and offer need based scholarships to help fund trainings and classes that you want to offer the coomunity. You can also offer work swaps so people are invested in their own learning while building community.
Remember that if you give it to them for free, you impoverish their soul and make them feel indebted to you, which leads to resentment and a poverty/victim mentality.
Instead, offer them ways to learn, grow, and become proud of what they are doing so that they can teach the same to others and build a stronger community, that leads to a brighter future for all.
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