Networking like Mycelium
Building a website ain’t easy! But I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out, so far. My main focus was always the store. Last year, our pre-order process was very rough around the edges. Actually, it was just a spreadsheet that we’d personally send anyone who expressed interest, so not very user-friendly, you might say. This year, I was committed to making a smooth, interactive experience for potential customers, and with the storefront, I think we’ve got that done! However, amid the mind-numbing crunch of adding almost 300 varieties into our store, and the frantic de-bugging process (which we are hoping to be done with soon, here) I might have failed to make sure our core mission and values were still clearly expressed.
On our website’s launch day, a friend said: “It looks great, but are you guys still doing the community garden stuff?” I responded: “Oh yeah, check out our ‘about’ page!” meanwhile, red-alert sirens are sounding in my mind. How did this get lost in the shuffle of web designing and content creation!? So, I tell him it’s still the same deal. Still donating seedlings for every one bought, still working on networking between community gardens
in the city. He suggested making a page
dedicated to this mission, maybe with a
Once again, like with the Seedling Kits, an offhand suggestion by a friend ignites a fire of inspiration. I can see it already: a map, a calendar of events, a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to find a non-monetized garden space, to meet people and learn about growing food. To bring this vision to life, I’d have to double-down on the networking effort between gardens.
So we sent out messages to all the garden mailing lists we are on, in order to connect electronically with those that we haven’t met organically, yet. Among the many responses we received, one was from a Michelle Shaw. Michelle works with an initiative called Edible Boulevards, which, as you might have guessed, teaches people how to grow their own food on urban property! They are all about addressing systemic inequality and disenfranchisement through grassroots food-growing programs. Exactly the kind of activity we are inspired by!
Not only is the Edible Boulevards initiative interested in encouraging precisely the kind of food sovereignty we are, but in talking with Michelle, we discovered they are working on a community garden map, too. Realizing we were doing almost the same work simultaneously, we decided to meet up. A few days later, I met with Michelle, as well as a couple U of M volunteers that were instructing her team on how to create digital maps.
They had done a ton of work gathering garden addresses throughout all of north Minneapolis, but were running out of time on their grant to finish the map. So we struck a deal: They would share their painstakingly researched list of addresses, and I would make house-calls to see whether the gardens were still operating. A perfect synergy, if you ask me, and a win-win to boot: we get a huge helping hand on our own garden database, plus have a great reason to meet our city’s gardeners face-to-face!
It seems like every day we keep at this work, we meet more inspired people on the same path. It’s hard to overstate how energizing it is to finally start to plug into this community we dream about, and I can’t wait to hit the pavement, and start meeting these gardens, to continue to expand and connect this community even more!