Spider webs are not the only webs that matter to your garden's success. The World Wide Web and the world of support it can garner matters too, especially if you are trying to recruit volunteers, get business sponsorships, and find much-needed resources.
Many community gardens already have a website, but how many are truly putting the power of social media to work for them? A blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, and Pinterest board are all ways to tell your garden's story, attract members (and even the media), encourage donations, and connect with others near and far who can share everything from tools to seeds to suggestions. Even if your garden leaders don't do this, I can assure you that some of your garden's members or visitors are capturing what's going on in the garden and sharing it online. In fact, there's a strong chance there's a photo of you with a pitchfork flying around the Internet right now!
Proactively incorporating social media into your garden's communications efforts not only lets you manage your garden's reputation but can also deliver some effective outcomes, including:
1. Sharing knowledge. Gardening knowledge has skipped not one but two (and some would say three) generations, and many gardeners need a great deal of assistance to keep from getting frustrated and keep their garden plot productive. Posting videos, articles, and other educational information is a convenient way to "hand-hold" new gardeners in an accessible way that fits busy schedules.
2. Communicating plans. Sharing dates, times, polls, agendas, and other member information via social media can be very convenient as everyone can see comments and respond in real time.
3. Connecting with a larger community of gardeners. Social media knows no boundaries and lets gardeners from many community gardens share information and resources, learn from each other, volunteer at each other's gardens, and form a larger voice when advocating for agriculture ordinance changes. Posting photos of the garden shouts it out about all the good food and community that is growing, encourages the creation of other gardens, and garners widespread support. That way, if a challenge arises (vandalism or a flood, for instance), there is a connected group of invested people willing to help.
4. Raising money. Social media is a fast way to ask people to participate in an online "vote to win" grant competition or corporate sponsorship challenge. You can encourage donations to the garden through secure online payment options such as Paypal (and ask people to share the donation opportunity with their social networks). It also enables business contacts to see what some of the garden needs are to make financial contributions or coordinate a group of employees to get involved as volunteers.
If you have social media experience, you may be the perfect person to head up this effort at your local community garden or at the garden your company may be thinking of starting. If this is an area in which you currently have little experience but would like to learn more, you may find that being the social media point person in a volunteer capacity is a low-risk way to build some real business skills that may even help you get promoted at work.
Hungry for more? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns, and feedback.
Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerd.com.