TC Community Garden: New Year, New Leadership, New Benefits
by Bethany Thies, Master Gardener
If you have any interest in growing your own food, you should look into renting a plot from TC Community Garden (TCCG). Located in the Historic Barns Park at the southwest corner of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, TCCG is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a place for people in the area to gather and share a common interest in organic gardening in an urban setting.
It also offers educational opportunities to the community and provides fresh produce for numerous charities. In fact, the TCCG Teaching and Donation Garden collected over 1300 pounds of food this past growing season, which is donated on the day it is picked to Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan and distributed to area food pantries.
These three pillars of its mission – gathering, education and growing – have been the focus of the organization since it first went into operation in 2012. Explosive growth in the organization over the past few years, though, has TCCG looking at new ways of implementing this mission.
“We really took a look at the mission statement and operational model and made some adjustments to make sure we are giving members a high-quality experience at TC Community Garden,” said TCCG Board of Directors President Zach Millican.
Gathering and Growing
One such adjustment has to do with the organization’s garden plots. In years past, a member had to also manage a plot. This year, managing a plot is an add-on to membership. Any persons who support the mission may now join the garden. “We wanted membership to be more inclusive,” Millican said.
Membership fees for 2018 are $35 for an individual, $60 for a duo, $100 for a family and $175 for a business/sponsor. Membership includes free admission to most of its 2018 programming, currently about 30 events focused on promoting the TCCG’s strong fellowship. Plot rental will be extra — $65 for a 12’ by 30’ plot or $130 for a 24’ by 30’ plot — plus an active gardener fee. Plot renters will enjoy on-demand water, on-site composting, free soil amendments and cover crops, discounted starter plants and seeds, access to community tools and new this year, personal gardening assistance.
Plot renters must agree to organic growing practices, actively manage the plot through weeding, watering and pest control, and be an ambassador for the garden and park. In the past, gardeners were required to commit 12 hours to help manage the garden. However, the organization believes this detracted from members having a good gardeing experience, so it has been eliminated for 2018.
Changes have come to other areas of the organization as well. In December, TCCG members voted to hire an executive director to help run what had been a solely volunteer-run group. Kimberly Conaghan, who had been president and treasurer for two years, is stepping into the new position. Acting as the liaison between the Board of Directors and the membership, she said she is extremely honored to be TCCG’s first Executive Director. She will also be at the TCCG managing some of the new day-to-day operations.
“A big focus in 2018 is on educational programming, and more specifically, our children’s education and programming,” Conaghan said. “There will be a weekly story time in the garden followed by a garden-themed arts and craft activity, and a monthly kids’ workshop, each with a different theme, and many family-friendly events at the September 30 Harvest Festival.”
In addition, each Friday beginning in June, TCCG will also have a Garden Market Stand offering organically grown produce to the public. Members of TCCG will receive coupons and steep discounts. All excess produce will continue to be donated to local charitable causes.
Also new for 2018 will be a Farm-to-Table Dinner series. “We are still ironing out some dates and details, but they will incredible,” Conaghan said. “We are hoping to also make them zero waste and locally sourced.”
The organization’s complete programming lineup will be released in February.
With all of the growth and changes coming to TCCG in 2018, you might be asking yourself, “where do I sign up?” Membership for 2018 is happening now, and new plot renters may request a plot beginning January 1 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, you must be a member to rent a plot. You can also reach the TCCG anytime by calling 231-715-1544.