If you’d like more information about getting involved with the UGC Programs Committee, please contact Zac Bryan (details below).
Training Farm: After talking with Mike Stone with the Waco CDC and many city officials, including the director of housing and City Manager, we have determined we cannot proceed with the training farm at the current location under current conditions. The 11th and West site has reverted back to a trust of the city, county, and school district in their joint housing program, restricting the land from use for anything other than housing. It is the opinion of city staff that changing the current policy that governs the land would a) be too difficult to change because of about 5 or 6 policies/ordinances that would have to get changed by each of those taxing entities and b) could potentially upset relations between those entities because of a verbal agreement they have on how to operate together. Long story short, we still have several options:
Transfer the current site of the training farm out of the city’s housing program into their general land program and buy the land outright ($7,800). Not complicated, but would require us being ready to purchase the land.
Pick a different location under the city’s (or county’s or school district’s) general land sales program and purchase those lots. Again, not complicated, and we could get some good deals (they are practically giving away some land). However, whether the soil is amenable to planting and if the land has good water hookups, along with getting the proper size of land, could take much research and work.
Attempt to get the policy changed on the current land. It is complicated and would take a minimum of 4-6 months. However, when done, we could work the land as long as we adhere to the community gardening ordinance without having to purchase anything.
Vernon has agreed to help us navigate sites in East Waco that would be good candidates, and Robert Smith, Property manager with the City of Waco is compiling a list of sites for North Waco. Once we have them narrowed down, we will send them out for your perusal. There was a debate at the meeting whether an assessment of the neighborhood should be taken before we choose a site, so that we ensure that we have neighborhood support before we proceed. Do we build it and they come? At our Board meeting, also on Thursday, the general consensus was that we could build it and neighborhood support would follow. Amber Jekot (and I think Jenny too?) agreed to help with the assessment and neighborhood outreach portion of the farm. The advantages of the current site are that we live a block or two away, and it is a large chunk of contiguous lots. Whatever site we choose, purchasing it will likely be our next big fundraising goal.
School Gardening: We are trying to figure out a sustainable school gardening model that doesn’t overextend our resources but still allows us to provide the most programming that we could at the most sites. At the programs committee meeting, the idea most discussed that seemed to have general consensus was having the UGC have 2-3 “Flagship” programs that provide the model for school gardening in our area, where people interested in expanding garden club programming to other schools can come train with us and we can give them advice and support for school gardens that they are ultimately responsible for. Requirements for our assistance would be that they volunteer with our garden clubs to “learn how its done” so to speak and then they have outside partners in addition to us help them continue the programming. It could likely involve a formal application process with us as well as some sort of fee structure outside of membership.
At a meeting at WHRI (the Farm), we discussed another possibility for enhancing garden club programming. At minimum, we will be begin sharing information regarding curriculum and ideas for lessons at garden clubs with the Farm. We discussed the idea of also potentially partnering even further and sharing responsibilities for promoting school gardening in McLennan County, as well as potentially sharing funding. In addition, we discussed the idea of the HOTUGC taking the lead on the school gardening training function of the Farm, allowing the farm to focus on agricultural training of interns. This would allow us to continue our contract with Waco ISD and provide oversight to more school gardens in town, with the Farm providing the agricultural training and Americorps labor to help us conduct multiple programs. The idea behind this is to reduce competition and duplication, share resources, and provide enhanced garden programming for all schools involved. While it is still in the discussion phases and many details would need to be worked out, we said we would pass this along to our people for discussion (lucky ya’ll!)
Membership: We discussed the possibility of having more defined membership packages and how to appeal to more people to become members. Ongoing questions are also are who are we catering too? Are we poverty and specific community focused? How are we different than other gardening and agricultural nonprofits (master gardeners, WHRI, etc.) Jenny brought up that we need to appeal more to individuals and emphasize the social justice component to our mission and that membership is supporting that. Chelle mentioned that having one in person consultation could help new members get started. Scholarships could be available to those who are not able to pay increased fees. I have attached a membership package outline for discussion. Let me know if you would like to add anything or have any questions/concerns.
That is the summation of things. Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you all again for all of your help.
Zacary Scott Bryan
HOT Urban Gardening Coalition