Growing with the Community: A Hands-on Training Design for Agricultural Educators, Farmers and Community Leaders

Final Report for ES01-054

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $49,735.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Ellen Huntley
Florida Organic Growers
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Project Information

  • Developed community garden group database for Florida;

    Trained sixty community members, extension agents in Florida about building community gardens in January 2004;

    Trained thirty community gardens at the annual American Community Garden Association 2004 conference in developing community based changed.

    Developed an interactive website and resource manual at

Project Objectives:
  • Train trainers in Florida and Louisiana to develop community garden skills including leadership, knowledge about healthy eating, composting/recycling materials, entrepreneurship and marketing and garden evaluation.

    Form 10 partnerships in each state between farmer, private and public groups interested in community gardens.

    Develop website for community resources.
    Coordinate Internet communication among trainees.

    Develop training manual for community garden resources.


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Education & Outreach Initiatives



Project was initiated to be a partnership in Florida and Louisiana. Community garden coordinators and project coordinators reached out through out each of their states to develop a network of support for community gardens. At the start of the project Louisiana had project partners appointed to address community food systems through federal agencies. The project staff developed a survey for county extension offices and community based groups to determine interest and need in accessing community garden resources and creating a network. Most input was given through one-on-one conversations with coordinators. Louisiana leaders provided on-site trainings for each interested group. Florida decided to hold one state-wide training and lead the development of a resource manual and develop case studies of gardening groups.

Outreach and Publications

Coordinate Internet communications:
Webpage to display contact information, mission and goals of community groups across Florida was completed. The website may be found by clicking on “Florida Community Garden Network” at or entering the following web address: Readers may access 1) a list of community gardening groups in Florida and add their own information to the website; 2) information about six community garden groups in Florida; 3) a resource manual to start a community garden; and 4) other garden and sustainable agriculture links.

The homepage reads as follows:
Get Connected: Browse the Network Here. Contact other gardeners in Florida to talk about their gardens. To add your own garden to the list, first Register as a User of
Read how community gardens are going in Florida: Case Studies
Find resources for “starting a community garden” Read our Resource Guide for Starting a Community Garden.
Contact other groups that support gardening and sustainable agriculture. Browse our Links & Internet Resources

Development of resource manual:
Workshop participants were asked to bring materials helpful to them in gardening and community organizing. A workshop manual was also compiled for the statewide training. Materials included workshop participant list, agenda, reflection/evaluation, tips of success to building strong community garden projects, American Community Gardening Association Starting a Community Garden Publication, and a community garden questionnaire.

Three staff members presented to thirty community garden leaders at the 2004 American Community Garden Association Conference. They explored the real implications of supporting diversity in food system work from their experiences in Gainesville, Florida with a majority white organization serving a majority African American population.

Outcomes and impacts:

Train the Trainers:
Louisiana team held individual trainings in communities that requested community gardening assistance instead of planning one large, joint training between Louisiana and Florida. Louisiana completed training for 15 partners.

Sixty people attended the Florida statewide community garden training on January 22 from 12:30PM to 5PM in Gainesville, Florida. The conference was scheduled the day before the regional Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Annual Conference to maximize convenience for participation in the training and a the larger conference.
Workshop trainers included:
Ashley Atkinson and Doris Elam, Flint Urban Gardening and Land Use Corporation (MI),
Eva Worden, UF State Extension Specialist (FL), and
Hollis Watkins, Southern ECHO (MS).

Form 10 partnerships:
Florida partners continued to development of community garden group database. The 2003 database listed 144 groups or individuals interested in community gardening. The database served as a source for inviting attendees to the Florida training. Ten groups in the database want to be listed on a website. The other groups were interested in the concept of community gardens yet may not be part of a community garden at this time. Groups include community farms, consumer organizations, and farm workers’ rights supporters.

Louisiana partnerships changed directions by 2003 as the lead organization (BREADA) strengthened its priorities for economic development.

Staff members of the lead Florida partner, Neighborhood Nutrition Network (NNN) of the not-for-profit Florida Organic Growers (FOG), are primarily white and work with predominantly African-Americans. Race plays a deep role in the way we interact in communities. In the area of community gardens across the state and Southeast, a similar dynamic to that of NNN exists between organizations that promote gardens and people who may be interested in benefits of a community garden. Therefore, addressing the issues of race and cultural competency in community gardening and sustainable agriculture organizing work is important.

Project Outcomes


Economic Analysis

Successes of community gardeners showed that having a diversified number of partnering groups/organizations in the gardens help sustain gardens through both monetary and in-kind donations of resources. Resources included garden materials, fencing, raised beds, soil, labor, and leadership.

Few community gardening groups generate income from their gardens. Developing a mechanism to sell produce from gardens was not completed in this project.

Farmer Adoption

We found that school gardens is an appropriate and direct way to connect farmers with future consumers and teach young people about the value of growing fresh food. Through efforts in Growing with the Community, we have developed a method and teaching curriculum that may help others in Florida as well as the Southeast US, teach sustainable agriculture to children. Designing a statewide on-going school garden training is an outgrowth of this community garden project.

Areas needing additional study

The following areas of professional development and study are necessary to support the successes of community gardens in the Southeast:

  • Development of cultural competency and community develop skills of garden leaders.
  • Development of funding resources.
  • Development of urban soil testing package for community gardens through county-state extension systems.

Potential Contributions

Through the trainings and development of a resource manual we determined that there are trends unique to the Southeast United States in forming community gardens. Although there are challenges to community gardens, it is important to recognize and address these challenges in order to better support the positive impacts that community gardens have for their neighborhoods in creating a clean environment, fresh food and a safe, common place for people to meet and socialize.

Successes in providing resources for community gardening in Florida and the Southeast US include:

  • High interest level of people who want to garden 
  • Networking and relationships between gardeners is beneficial 
  • People enjoy gardening and benefit from the food and the act of gardening

Challenges in providing resources for community gardening in Florida and the Southeast US include:

  • The tradition of gardening is strongly rooted in the backyard practices instead of collective spaces 
  • Pace of modern life discourages potential gardeners 
  • One model of leadership does not fit the needs of every neighborhood and community 
  • Cultural competency and community develop skills of community gardener promoters is low 
  • Funding for coordination and resources is low 
  • Contamination in urban soils, especially in densely populated areas, sometimes requires intensive cleanup and remediation in order to attain healthy organic soil to grow food. 
  • Power struggles: Reaching agreement about how the garden should be run is an ongoing challenge.
  • Leaders who make decisions for community gardens sometimes have and are sometimes viewed as having self-motivated interests such as enhancing their own credibility, salary earned, and want of control. This occurs most often when garden leaders are not from the communities where gardens are located. Power struggles like this stifle the natural potential of the gardens to bridge gaps and build community. Residents who would benefit most from the gardens, such as those with low-incomes, are then discouraged from becoming involved and the garden may be viewed as exclusive. 

Some antidotes include power sharing in your organization’s values statement; discuss what good leadership looks like and make sure people understand that a good leader develops the power and skills of others; understand that change is inevitable and challenges to your leadership can be healthy and productive; make sure the organization is focused on the mission (Changework, Dismantling Racism, 2004, 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.