I finally cracked open the new GreenThumb Winter Program Guide. Probably the most interesting page is the one on the registration process. Registration gives a community garden access to GreenThumb’s resources and services. It also represents a political victory. After years of registering gardens, the city suspended the practice as a way of disassociating itself from the program. Registration gives a garden a modicum of more status.
However, it comes with responsibility. Garden groups need to be open to new members; need to keep the garden in good shape; need to keep open hours. A lot of this is fair enough, but only recently has there been an explicit negotiation between the city and garden groups about the condition for one tenet of the requirements – open hours. At first GreenThumb was demanding a minimum of 20 hours a week open hours – a 100% increase from 10 hours. The New York City Community Garden Coalition scheduled a meeting with GT director Edie Stone and Jack Linn, and got the requirements reduced to a range of 10 to 20 hours, depending on the capacity of the garden.
The key word is ‘capacity.’ Open hours essentially means staffing, almost always volunteer. With limited membership, this is is a hurdle for many gardens. What many gardens really need, beyond soil, plants, and supplies, is community organizing. And an appreciation that what they’re stewarding is public land. I would like to see GreenThumb promote awareness of this responsibility, not in the shaming way that Parks has done in the past, but in a way that appreciates the real accomplishments of community gardeners and envisions a greener future.