Annual General Meeting Minutes from 3/7/10

Warren St. Marks Community Garden

Annual Garden Meeting

3/7/10

Held at Fifth Avenue Committee’s office

In attendance: Adriana Torres, Alison Novak, Ruth Chasek & daughter Naomi, Aaron Koffman, Pat McCarty, Cathy Carver, Kathy Hutson, Valerie English, Rod Hontuess, Andrea Kanapell, Kate Edmundson, Mical Moser, Tim Foster, Victoria Grant, Jerah Kirby, Raphe Evanoff, Kate Hawes, Sam Eckersley, Aimee Lopez, Leslie McCleave, Cathleen Bell, Makale Faber Cullen, Taryn FitzGerald & son Ryan.

1. Introductions

We went around the room so that each person could introduce herself or himself and say something about last year or the garden in general that they love (good things).

Aaron Koffman started and introduced himself as moderator. Aaron is a Garden member and plot holder. He works in affordable housing and sits on several non-profit boards.

Likes/Loves…

Rod: basil

Valerie: the new compost area

Cathleen: having kids in the garden and unstructured/educational play

Kathy H: Jerah’s pickling workshops

Adrianna: green space in city

Ruth: coordinators did well last year

Pat: garden is already coming alive for the spring

Cathy C: green space in city

Aaron: the breeze and the educational tool of the compost

Kate H: being outside and working on projects

Jerah: learning about weeds of the northeast in a book and connecting that knowledge to experience in the garden

Alison: connections to neighborhood history

Victoria: new member – green space in the city

Makale: transformative knowledge, seeing the water turned on and a bench re-built

Tim Foster: toad

Mical: transformation of garbage filled lot into a beautiful natural area

Kate E: community plots with produce available, act of watering

Andrea: being welcomed to the garden as a refugee from the Baltic St garden

Taryn: playing in the garden with children – would like to do more with home schooled kids

Naomi: [busy doing her Ancient Greek homework!]

2. Coordinator Reports

Membership (Makale)

100 members on the books, 27 new households with about 50 new peoplel

Harvey set us up with Paypal, which has been a good way to collect money with fewer logistics. Still working out some kinks.

41 people paid dues – certainly not the 100 on the membership books

New members are still required to have an orientation, but they can now print out an on-line membership form and either email it to the membership coordinator or give the hardcopy

New member orientations were always available on Garden Day and then scheduled appointments as available. Sometimes the plot coordinator or other members helped out with orientations. There are a few members who live on the same block as the garden and have extra keys to make the hand-off simpler.

A major change last year was shifting for Garden Day requirements only to doing 2.5 hours per month plus Garden Days (optional) with workshops

Vote: get new locks for this season. Getting new locks would help us collect dues and determine who is still an active member. Mical made the motion, Jerah seconded and all were in favor. The membership coordinator will spearhead the effort.

Fundraising (Cathleen)

Marathon bake sale made $225 profit. There were more bakers than buyers perhaps but there was a lot of community good will expressed. Recommend doing again.

Children’s hour was an informal period of playing in the garden typically on Thursday afternoons. This year hopefully there will be a more regular story component. Cathleen & Taryn to discuss ideas.

In response to Mical’s concern that the garden is dangerous for children (lead, garbage, thorns) and that children can be dangerous for the plants (step on them), Cathleen expanded on children’s hour. A large part of the experience is teaching children to respect the garden and plants. The youngest kids have direct oversight; if they wander into a plot then they are scooped up immediately. The older kids know not to eat dirt or pick flowers, etc. If there is an episode, it is used as a teaching tool. Brooklyn kids are used to “danger” and some gardeners voiced the opinion that the sidewalk is more dangerous for kids than the garden.

Ruth gave the plant sale update: Profit was made but the event took a lot of coordination and effort. Jerah noted that selling the plants was fun and extras were put to use in the community plots. Mical noted that the Bears Garden has a seemingly successful plant sale and makes a strong effort to do signage. Aaron pointed out that the Bears have a better location for catching the eye of passers-by.

Vote: Will do the plant sale this year as spearheaded by the fundraising and garden coodinator(s). Cathleen made the motion,Valerie seconded and all were in favor.

Garden (Pat)

There was an incredible compost effort: a new set of bins were built with repurposed materials by garden members. We also participated in an effort coordinated across community gardens to collect autumn leaves for composting in lieu of the leaves being sent to a City landfill. A compost bike tour to see what other gardens were doing was also held.

There was a complete inventory done on the tool shed contents. Pat suggests it is done earlier in the season next year.

Tim Foster questioned whether the glazed bricks lining the leaves compost bin were okay to use as the garden typically does not use bricks to border any food producing plots or compost to avoid lead/arsenic contamination. Andrea brought the pavers from the Baltic St garden where they were used similarly and agreed to research the issue further.

Mical expressed concern that gardening was de-emphasized in comparison to community building. Cathleen noted that being garden coordinator is a lot of work and anyone should feel they can step up and spear head projects/efforts. Kate noted that she and Jerah were thinking about running as co-coordinators and putting an emphasis on garden projects on Garden Day.

Events (Kathy)

Events that took place included 2 movie nights, a wedding in the garden (2 new members), Jerah’s pickling courses, Spoke the Hub’s annual event (Brazilian percussion band), Harvest pot luck

All of these events are likely candidates for this year (except we don’t know of anyone who wishes to be married in the garden)

Communications (Valerie)

Created a new website and all of the new posts automatically are posted to our Facebook page

The Facebook page is also new this year, created by Kate Hawes.

Anyone with posts for the website should let the communications coordinator know.

Valerie suggested changing the way we keep the membership lists which is currently a little convoluted and redundant. She can create a central list from which the coordinators can send messages of their own, or messages on behalf of other members. Valerie noted that the yahoo list is problematic because not everyone joins, people are confused by it and the technology is outdated.

Alison expressed concern that postings from members would have to go through coordinators first who might not have the time to forward the post immediately. Cathy noted that MeetUp has been used for her bee group. Nell noted that she has some ideas for a way to improve our communications tool and offered to work with the communications coordinator. Kate E also has ideas and would like to help.

Plots (Alison)

About 25 plots with about 19 people on the waiting list. Alison asked that plot holders from last year contact her to confirm whether they would be keeping their plot.

Last year there were 2 garden surveys as a way to get more input from a broader swath of members. The second survey focused on building raised beds and the feedback was mixed.

Mical questioned the tracking system. Alison noted that tracking of plot holders in regard to hours was done by making sure they signed up for time on the Google calendar and then comparing that list to the sign-in sheet in the shed. Overall, everyone did their share. As a practical matter, it would be hard to have a maintained plot and not be spending at least 2.5 hours in the garden per month. Alison did not visit the garden to see if people were actually there the entire time slot. During discussions about the new hours system, members repeatedly expressed concern that the garden not be as regimented as the Park Slope Food Coop, thus we are relying largely on the honor system. [For reports on hours in greater detail, see Alison’s postings to the listserve from last summer. There were several.]

Makale noted that some members wanted more individual plots but she urged that we don’t lose the community aspect of the garden by letting individual plots dominate.

Mical expressed concern that trees were not being maintained by plot holders. Someone questioned whether the by-laws required plot holders to maintain the trees.

Treasurer (Ruth)

Reviewed income to expenses (see hand-out)

Money is kept in an account at Sovereign

We had more snow this year than projected so that cost was high relative to projections. A neighborhood youth shovels for us which is a nice way to connect/give back to the community.

Makale noted that if members want or need something for the garden then they should let the coordinators know. Ruth noted that the garden coordinator has an annual discretionary budget under which most requests are likely to fit. Larger requests have to be voted on by multiple coordinators.

Ruth suggested that we form a by-laws committee that any members can join. She noted that over the last year the coordinators created several different drafts but it was difficult to pull together with so many other responsibilities. Through discussion the members present came to consensus that we would have a by-laws committee chaired by the administrative coordinator. Any member wishing to work on the by-laws should join. The goal is to have a draft circulated to the general membership before next year’s AGM so we can vote on it.

3. Elections

Makale read the position descriptions.

Administrator: Current coordinator (Cara) is stepping down. Both Pat & Mical ran for the position. Pat won. We conducted this vote through private ballot. Ballots were opened by Kate Hawes and viewed by Kate and Aaron, while being read a loud.

Garden: Current coordinator (Pat) is stepping down. Jerah and Kate H expressed interest in running as co-coordinators. Vote in their favor was unanimous.

Membership: Current coordinator (Makale) is stepping down. Vote was unanimous in favor of Jen Kaiser-Gordon. (Note: Jen was not present at the meeting but had given permission to be nominated on her behalf.)

Plot: Current coordinator, Alison, was unanimously voted to stay on.

Fundraiser: Current coordinator, Cathleen, was unanimously voted to stay on.

Communications: Current coordinator, Valerie, was unanimously voted to stay on. Note: Kate E and Nell were asked to be a supportive committee as previously discussed.

Events: Current coordinator, Kathy H, was unanimously voted to stay on.

Treasurer: Current coordinator, Ruth, was unanimously voted to stay on.

4. New Business

Several agenda items had been listed in the meeting announcement and anyone was present was invited to bring up additional issues.

Raised Beds: Noted again the mixed feedback from the survey last year. Another difficulty is with timing the project: not when the ground is frozen or plants are likely to be trampled. The Greenthumb workshop on raised beds is April 21 and various members were planning to attend. Moved to discuss again with entire garden at first Garden Day.

Calendar: Garden Day dates were pre-selected by the coordinators based on feedback over the previous year regarding dates to alternate Saturdays and Sundays, to avoid holiday weekends, and in order to get a card together to pass out at the AGM. Several people noted that beautiful design (by Valerie, pro bono) and the idea of posting the card on their home refrigerators. There was consensus to keep the dates as proposed. Everyone was urged to take cards and distribute throughout the neighborhood.

AGM 2011. Mical expressed the desire to set a date for next year’s meeting. We chose the first Sunday in 2011.

Mical and Tim expressed concern regarding the decision-making processes of the garden. They felt decisions were made without opportunity for them to give input. Ruth encouraged everyone to attend the steering committee meetings (aka business meetings) where the elected coordinators deal with minutiae of running the garden but don’t make major decisions on behalf of the garden. Kathy H and Alison also noted that meeting announcements were posted to the listserve as were meeting notes. It was noted that the 2.5 hour work shift idea was developed by a working committee and voted in at last year’s AGM. That idea also included work squads and that was later eliminated. Someone noted that the surveys were created last year in order to get more input from gardeners – a better way than a single meeting because there’s never a time everyone can make it. Major votes still take place on Garden Days. Alison noted that attendance at Garden Days was inconsistent last year and posited multiple reasons including poor weather and not enough reminders. Cathleen noted that additional attention could be paid to note keeping.

Other new business was postponed to the first Garden Day due to time constraints

5. Soil Health Workshop

Rob Bennaton, Community Coordinator with the NYC Housing Authority’s Garden & Greening Program within the Department of Community Operations gave a talk on soil health with a number of helpful handouts. (There are extras to be put in the tool shed.) Pat had coordinated Rob’s appearance.

The meeting was adjourned.

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