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any tips for diversifying income in a loose community gardening organisation?

 
pollinator
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Hi everybody,

I'm part of a small, loose volunteer organisation that support urban community gardens in the Netherlands.

We are revamping the organisation and part of that is setting out the financial strategy. Till now, we have been completely depending on city council grants to pay for materials, marketing materials, and employ a coordinator for a few hours a week.  The organisation is a core of about 5 people, whereas there are 10 gardens that run pretty independently, and we sort out a lot of their materials, the contact with the city council to have the right to rent the land, and some of the marketing.

There's af ine balance to be juggled - not only do most of our internal team have full time jobs and families, but there's also al ot of distance between the core team and the gardens themselves. Most of hte core team don't actually do any gardening, but behind-the-scenes admin and networking and stuff.

This is, I believe, why we haven't actually been selling food. But the food that is grown is largely done individually, and people harvest their food individually.

Do you have any suggestions on how to diversify our income streams?

Ideas so far:
- educational workshops
- renting out our cargo bike
- holding a market, renting out stalls
- selling plants
- of course, different grant fundings
- and of course, online residual income streams

Thanks guys!


 
pollinator
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I've visited the Netherlands, but not for long enough to have a good grasp of the various realities there.  I'm sure one factor for food gardens is the length of the actual growing season.

I'm supposing that the people growing food in the gardens have modest money incomes, from whatever sources.  They may feel they need every bit of food their individual plots can produce.

So I don't know how acceptable the idea I'll propose will be, because it depends on the attitudes and mindset of the gardeners.  But could you request that the gardeners grow a specified marketable/profitable crop that could be combined into a sufficient output to be of interest to food sellers?  So that you would have a "cash crop" that the community garden would wholesale, and it would be available to the retailers in a reasonably predictable rate or quantity through the maturity season of that crop.

Perhaps you could think of more than one such crop, so that as one crop's maturity season declines, another comes into season.

The idea here would be for the individual gardeners to contribute to the sustaining of the community-garden system.  Maybe you've already considered this sort of thing, I don't know.  In any case, good luck.
 
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How about saving and selling your own seeds?  This could be combined with a series of workshops where the students come and learn about pollination styles, isolation methods, harvesting, drying, processing, sorting, storing, and doing germination tests with seeds.  

Maybe the class itself would be fairly cheap to cover expenses, but at the end of the season, you'll have extra seeds which you can packet and sell the next spring.  
 
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A couple things that come to mind:

- Selling high-quality compost (vermicompost especially tends to have higher returns)
- Breeding composting worms
- Selling pre-made planters, raised bed frames
 
Shaz Jameson
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Joel Bercardin wrote:I've visited the Netherlands, but not for long enough to have a good grasp of the various realities there.  I'm sure one factor for food gardens is the length of the actual growing season.

I'm supposing that the people growing food in the gardens have modest money incomes, from whatever sources.  They may feel they need every bit of food their individual plots can produce.

So I don't know how acceptable the idea I'll propose will be, because it depends on the attitudes and mindset of the gardeners.  But could you request that the gardeners grow a specified marketable/profitable crop that could be combined into a sufficient output to be of interest to food sellers?  So that you would have a "cash crop" that the community garden would wholesale, and it would be available to the retailers in a reasonably predictable rate or quantity through the maturity season of that crop.

Perhaps you could think of more than one such crop, so that as one crop's maturity season declines, another comes into season.

The idea here would be for the individual gardeners to contribute to the sustaining of the community-garden system.



Joel, this is a brilliant idea!! It is exactly the kind of thing that makes me excited about permaculture thinking; taking the problem - decentralised, loose network of gardens - and turning it into a solution - join forces for a cash crop that grows in small places in each garden but combines for a larger bulk. This is great, thank you very much. I'm not sure how many people would be willing ot put in the hours, but it's definitely something we can work on!

I will have to look at marketing in the sense of what types of crops would people want to buy, and to whom - the Netherlands is one of hte most agricultural countries in the world and there's no way we can compete with large-scale growing operations, but perhaps on a more local level there is something / somewhere we can fill a gap.
 
Shaz Jameson
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R Ranson wrote:How about saving and selling your own seeds?  This could be combined with a series of workshops where the students come and learn about pollination styles, isolation methods, harvesting, drying, processing, sorting, storing, and doing germination tests with seeds.  

Maybe the class itself would be fairly cheap to cover expenses, but at the end of the season, you'll have extra seeds which you can packet and sell the next spring.  



This is a brilliant idea, thank you R Ranson!

We do have a seed-swap bank, so I wonder how these two would work together and not in conflict. Need to think through this some more.

 
Shaz Jameson
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Kyle Neath wrote:A couple things that come to mind:

- Selling high-quality compost (vermicompost especially tends to have higher returns)
- Breeding composting worms
- Selling pre-made planters, raised bed frames



Thanks Kyle! The last point is probably great for our community garden organisation, the first two I think are more on the individual level (i.e. me). Purely because the vast majority of the gardeners are beginners who find it 'cute' to potter around in the garden with the family and grow a few vegetables, rather than hardcore gardeners / eco-warriors. Now that's not a problem, but many haven't even heard of vermicomposting and still give me funny looks when I say I have a worm farm in the back.

 
r ranson
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Shaz Jameson wrote:

R Ranson wrote:How about saving and selling your own seeds?  This could be combined with a series of workshops where the students come and learn about pollination styles, isolation methods, harvesting, drying, processing, sorting, storing, and doing germination tests with seeds.  

Maybe the class itself would be fairly cheap to cover expenses, but at the end of the season, you'll have extra seeds which you can packet and sell the next spring.  



This is a brilliant idea, thank you R Ranson!

We do have a seed-swap bank, so I wonder how these two would work together and not in conflict. Need to think through this some more.



I've seen some seed swap banks sell seeds as a way of funding themselves.  Members of the seed bank get free swaps, but this is often limited to a geographical area like a city or often library district (for ones that work with the library system).  There are also people who want to buy seeds but don't want to contribute seeds.  The hudson valley seed library sells their seeds in garden shops as far away as, well where I live.  They are great seeds and beautifully packaged.  Well worth the extra expense.  
 
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