ACTION PLAN: Starting a Community Garden in Indianapolis (from someone who has been there)

The Keystone-Monon Community Garden launched as an idea in early 2015, and it took an entire year of planning, building our garden community, drafting proposals, securing land, and raising funds before the first garden bed was planted. As we enter our fourth growing season, we’ve found that the most important thing to fully embrace throughout the lifespan of any community garden is this: without community, it’s just a garden (and probably not a very successful one at that).

At our core, we strive to be a community organization rooted in gardening. We welcome all in our neighborhood and recognize that every person brings something of value to the table. Even as you work to build a garden, cultivate your plot, and harvest your gorgeous produce, the more important thing to cultivate continually is community.

So what’s your action plan? 

  1. GATHER your community and establish whether there is a critical mass committed to both gardening AND community. Discuss community organizing topics, such as Asset Based Community Development and Assume Positive Intentions, and ask people why they are there and what they hope to get out of creating a garden.
  2. ESTABLISH your organization’s mission and vision. Don’t rush through this part, and make sure your mission and vision are developed collaboratively by all.
  3. EXPLORE land options. Some options include vacant lots, parks, churches, private land – any unused or underused space. Be creative, and be sure to consider access, parking, and, most importantly, water. The Indy Urban Garden Program is an example of our city supporting turning vacant lots into urban garden production. The Keystone-Monon Community Garden identified Arsenal Park as our desired space due to its central location and its popularity as a gathering space for all in our community.
  4. DESIGN your space, considering light, access to water, placement within your neighborhood, and any site-specific considerations, such as busy roads. Our design team developed two phases, allowing us to grow slowly, building off successes and giving us the chance to rethink any missteps.
  5. DEVELOP your proposal. Because we work closely with Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation, we developed an extensive proposal, including our mission and vision, goals, design plans, annual schedule, maintenance plans, and risk management tactics. While many locations might not require such an extensive proposal, this guidance document has been extremely useful as we have built the garden, established partnerships, and applied for funding.
  6. BUILD partnerships. Truly, you cannot talk to enough people, organizations, or businesses. Look to everyone in your community, and listen to their needs and services. Schools, businesses, non-profits, hardware stores, churches, restaurants, neighborhood development corporations and associations, other community gardens: all could potentially serve as partners or provide guidance and support.
  7. RAISE funds. In addition to a nominal per-bed fee (waived for anyone who is unable to pay), we have raised funds through grants, individual donations, donations from churches and businesses in our neighborhood, neighborhood garden tours, and seedling sales. We have also received in-kind donations of wood and supplies, free mulch from tree service companies, and the donation of a Bobcat from a neighborhood tool rental business to move soil.
  8. FINALIZE land agreements and ACQUIRE insurance. Each year, we submit reports and renew our agreement with the city. The American Community Gardening Association also recommends community gardens acquire general public liability insurance, which we established through Farm Bureau Insurance.
  9. BUILD! This is when you get to really activate your community in a very tangible way! During the spring of 2016, we hosted multiple volunteer days, moving mountains of mulch, building 20 garden beds, and putting together our storage shed. These are also some of the most fun, rewarding projects for volunteers who can walk away seeing what a huge difference they have made.
  10. MANAGE the garden. Applications, participant waivers, regular gardener communications: your group will need to decide how to manage everything.
  11. EDUCATE and CELEBRATE early and often. Offering educational and social opportunities rooted in gardening and celebrating your community help continue your positive momentum and involve all in the neighborhood, even if they aren’t gardeners.

If you read the steps above and felt like you could never accomplish it all on your own, you are probably right! But when you have a strong community of people who are willing and encouraged to speak up; share their skills, ideas, and connections; and empowered to take action, you can accomplish anything. And each person involved will make everything you do that much stronger, better, and easier to accomplish.

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The best things in life aren’t things

What an amazing year 2018 was at the Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park! We want to thank all in our community who made it such a success: our gardeners, our generous sponsors, and our community supporters. We are so grateful for you!

What was new in 2018?

  • In August, our second Neighborhood Garden Tour raised over $430 for the garden. Close to 20 participants visited six gardens, and we welcomed the support of 13 local business sponsors!
  • We hosted a weekly by-donation yoga series, Yoga in the Garden, all summer. Huge thanks to instructor John-Payton Rowley, SoBeFit. We welcomed almost 300 yogis-in-training of all ages and raised nearly $1,000 in donations for our instructor and the garden. 
  • We built a new welcome and communications area: a planting table, outdoor message board, and arbor to create more growing space and shade. Huge thanks to our construction guru Liz Laughlin, owner of Limelight Coffee, and the Marion County Master Gardeners Association, whose generous grant helped support these exciting infrastructure additions.
  • We partnered with the IBG Youth Outreach Program during its pilot summer, hosting a weekly gardening and nutrition class for youth from our neighborhood.
  • We hosted a seed giveaway, cover crop workshop, essential oils workshop, and seedling sale, open to all in our community, raising over $560.
  • We hosted two big work days and expanded our perennial wildflower plantings. The monarch butterfly caterpillars found us this summer! Not only do flowers add beauty, but they greatly increase the biodiversity of pollinators in Arsenal Park. 
  • We partnered with so many in our community! We would be nothing without our community partners and supporters. Please support them year-round and during this holiday season. And the biggest thanks go to Indy Parks and Recreation for their continued support of the garden.
  • We gardened – and our gardeners’ beds were simply gorgeous this year! 20 gardeners grew fresh, organic produce all summer long.

What do we have planned for 2019?

  • Updated garden signage to tell our story and help community members connect with the garden and each other when they visit.
  • Website updates, including a recipe corner, virtual garden tour, gardener biographies, and other activities.
  • Expanded efforts to make a deeper impact in our neighborhood. And more yoga!

 

Coffee, Donuts, Neighbors (and Weeding): Fall Community Garden Cleanup, 10/6

We have had a truly amazing third growing season at Arsenal Park. From the 21 garden beds bursting with life to our second annual neighborhood garden tour to our weekly by-donation yoga in the garden classes to our amazing spring seedling sale to the monarch caterpillars who found a home in our milkweed plants this summer, it has really been a great year.

And now we are reaching out for your help: join us for our fall garden cleanup! Just two hours of your time will make a HUGE difference at the garden so we’re ready to plant again next spring. We’ll have coffee, donuts, and a lot of fun.

WHAT: Fall Garden Cleanup

WHEN: Sat., October 6, 10am-noon

WHERE: Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park, 1400 E. 46th St.

WHO: YOU! All are welcome – we will have different projects for all age ranges.

WHAT TO BRING: Yourself, your friends, a water bottle, and some garden gloves and digging/weeding tools if you have them

We’ll see you there!

Last Chance to SAVE $2! Garden Tour THIS SUNDAY – and Thanks to Azure’s Secret and Limelight Coffee

6 gardens, 1 great cause, and free admission to the last evening of the IN State Fair! Oh, and one last promo deal – $2 off per ticket before midnight on Tues., 8/14 for the 2nd annual NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN TOUR!

  • WHEN: Sun., 8/19 from 2-5pm
  • PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS TODAY ($2 off!!! Adults 16+: $10; kids 8-15: $6; kids 7 and under, FREE)
  • WHAT IS IT? A bike tour (cars also allowed) of six different gardens, including the Demonstration Gardens and Greenhouse at the IN State Fairgrounds. Learn from home gardeners right in our neighborhood; meet your neighbors; AND get free admission to explore the last evening of the IN State Fair!

SPONSOR RECOGNITION: Our gardeners are not only prolific veggie growers, they are also local makers, producers, and businesswomen! Check out these wonderful supporters of the garden and our community (and show them some love!).

Thank you, Azure’s Secret Handmade Soaps, maker of beautiful handmade soaps, bath bombs, shower steamers, and so much more.

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Thank you, Limelight Coffee Roasters (for the support AND the delicious, lightly roasted coffee that keeps us going)!

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One Week (and Some Change)! Garden Tour Tickets STILL AVAILABLE, and Thanks to Just Pop In and Kolman Dental

We have NO idea how tickets are still available for our second annual NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN TOUR – but if you haven’t gotten yours already, it’s your lucky day! Get yours TODAY and spend a wonderful afternoon with us on Sun., August 19 from 2-5pm.

  • PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS TODAY (Adults 16+: $12; kids 8-15: $8; kids 7 and under, FREE)
  • WHAT IS IT? A bike tour (cars also allowed) of six different gardens, including the Demonstration Gardens and Greenhouse at the IN State Fairgrounds. Learn from home gardeners right in our neighborhood; meet your neighbors; AND get free admission to explore the last evening of the IN State Fair!

Last garden sneak preview! Check out the lovely Purdue Extension-Marion County Demonstration Gardens, our final stop on the tour.

The demonstration garden was created on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 2012 by Purdue Extension-Marion County staff and Master Gardener volunteers. It features annual flowers and vegetables.

In 2013 the Purdue Extension-Marion County Demonstration Garden became an official All-America Selections (AAS) Flower and Vegetable Display Garden. It is the only AAS Display Garden in Indianapolis and one of only a half-dozen in Indiana. An AAS Display Garden provides the public an opportunity to view the newest AAS winners in an attractive well-maintained setting.

“The garden demonstrates how to grow food and ornamental plants,” says Steve Mayer, Extension Educator-Horticulture, for Purdue Extension-Marion County. “Gardeners can see and learn about plants adapted to Indiana and how to care for them.” Gardeners can see award-winning AAS flowers & vegetables and vegetable gardening techniques like raised beds. It’s a place for gardeners to get ideas.

SPONSOR RECOGNITION: Check out these wonderful supporters of the garden and our community (and show them some love!).

Thank you, JUST POP IN!JPI-Logo

Just Pop In! was established in 2003 and created by dynamic twin sisters, Mandy & Carly. Inspiration stemmed from evenings spent popping with their Grandfather. They develop playful and scrumptious recipes for the nostalgic snack and place them in hip, thoughtful and snappy packaging.

JPI believes the quality of their product is equally as important to the experience they offer their clients. They are dedicated to a culture of happiness, open-mindedness and co-existence. Their company philosophy has earned national, regional and local awards and the attention of clients like IndyCar, PGA, NCAA, Christian Dior | Nylon magazine, to name a few.

Mandy and Carly are passionate about supporting their local Indianapolis community. They are proud partners of various organizations that offer invaluable services to the community such as The Damien Center, Indiana AIDS Fund, Habitat for Humanity, The Julian Center and The Patachou Foundation.

Popcorn isn’t just popcorn to the girls; it’s a catalyst to sharing in an experience with the people they meet each day, whether a friend, family member or stranger on the street.

Thank you, KOLMAN DENTAL!

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Kolman Dental, PC is here to help you maintain optimal oral health. We strive to provide excellent comprehensive and preventative care while maintaining a relaxing environment. Our state of the art office is conveniently located in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis, IN. We look forward to meeting you! Dr. Kolman also believes very strongly in giving back to the community. He is a graduate of the Ardeth Burkhart leadership training series. He is on the board of directors for the Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis as well as on a task force for the United Way of Central Indiana. Dr. Kolman was also appointed to the American Dental Association’s Business Enterprise board of directors. He is also a current member of the American Dental Association, the Indiana Dental Association, the Indianapolis District Dental Society, Key Point study club and the ITI study club.

Last Day to Save! $2 Off Your Garden Tour Tickets

Don’t miss out – get your tickets BEFORE MIDNIGHT to save $2 per ticket for our second annual NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN TOUR

  • Visit https://keystonemonongrows2.eventbrite.com?discount=SAVE2 to save! (Adults 16+: $10; kids 8-15: $6; kids 7 and under, FREE)
  • WHEN? Sunday, Aug. 19 from 2-5pm
  • WHAT IS IT? A bike tour (cars also allowed) of six different gardens, including the Demonstration Gardens and Greenhouse at the IN State Fairgrounds; learn from home gardeners right in our neighborhood; meet your neighbors; AND get free admission to explore the last evening of the IN State Fair!

GARDEN PREVIEW: Pete’s Garden

 

 

SPONSOR THANK YOU: Bier Brewery

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Bier Brewery was opened in 2010 by the father and son team of Jerry and Darren Connor. The brewery was awarded the Indiana Brewers’ Cup Champion award in both 2011 and 2012, and has garnered over 85 medals at state, national, and international competitions. The mantra of the brewery is, “Quality, quality, quality.” From unique water profiles as a base for each beer, to balance and subtlety in all styles – they simply love making great beer.

SPONSOR THANK YOU: ACE Preparatory Academy
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Save $2 – Purchase Your Garden Tour Ticket Before Midnight on Tues., 8/7! Garden Tour Sneak Peek and Thank You to Sahm’s Place

In honor of the Indiana State Fair opening today, you can save $2 per ticket for our second annual NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN TOUR! Get your tickets BEFORE MIDNIGHT, Tuesday 8/7, and enjoy the tour with us on Sun., August 19 from 2-5pm.

  • Visit https://keystonemonongrows2.eventbrite.com?discount=SAVE2 to save! (Adults 16+: $10; kids 8-15: $6; kids 7 and under, FREE)
  • WHAT IS IT? A bike tour (cars also allowed) of six different gardens, including the Demonstration Gardens and Greenhouse at the IN State Fairgrounds; learn from home gardeners right in our neighborhood; meet your neighbors; AND get free admission to explore the last evening of the IN State Fair!

Check out Mike’s beautiful garden, which we’ll visit on the tour, AND help us say thanks to Sahm’s Place for their generous support!

Mike LaFollette is passionate about gardening and helping others realize their love for plants. He spends most of his free time redesigning and maintaining his backyard oasis (backyard) where he’s built a 500-gallon koi pond, large vegetable garden and multiple beds for annuals and native perennials. Mike earned his Master Gardener certification in 2017 and volunteers in the Demonstration Garden at the Indiana State Fair as well as in community gardens throughout Indianapolis.

 

Today, we also recognize garden tour sponsor, SAHM’S PLACE. Thank you for your support!
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