As a new program, much of our early season has focused on building and marketing our garden program. Even though our early marketing was limited to Facebook we had 30 families register by January. Facebook, email, and text have been the primary modes of communication with participants, and I have already begun to hear from folks interested in participating who missed the original registration window. As the program is spread through word of mouth, I expect we will see greater interest in future seasons.
Our meetings began in January and have averaged between 10 and 15 people in-person and 5 virtual participants. Originally, I had conceived of the meetings as informational – where participants listened to a speaker and collected information; however, I have been pleasantly surprised at the “gathering” nature of our meetings. Folks are eager to talk as a group -swapping ideas, asking questions, and sharing community contacts, tips, and tricks – and our meetings are more like a potluck. I hope to capture the warmth of this group “character” for future seasons because it so perfectly reflects the nature of our community.
So far, our meetings have focused on garden planning, soil testing, and pest management, and we have distributed seed and low tunnel kits as of our March meeting. Sweet pea seeds were distributed in February and participants were surveyed on the type of seeds they would like at our March meeting. I took their feedback and ordered a variety of seeds, including heirloom bean seeds that are well-loved in our region. We are planning an and of season seed swap as a result of our seed discussion. We had Mark Walden as a guest speaker to provide instruction and resources on pest management in March. We have managed to stay on track with the schedule outlined in our garden program application, although I would like to identify more guest speakers for future meetings because participants seemed eager to ask questions and engage with ideas during Mark’s session. We offered tilling for our participants who needed ground broken; we had four families sign up. Overall, we have had an energetic and productive beginning to our first season!