220: Ben Raskin on Practical Advice for Community Gardens.

Organizing a community garden from scratch with smart planning and long-term goals.

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Ben Raskin 1Ben has been working in horticulture for more than 20 years and has been with the Soil Association in the United Kingdom, since 2006. His own experience includes; running a walled garden in Sussex which supplied a Michelin starred restaurant, and working for Garden Organic at their gardens in Kent. He also set up and ran the 10-acre horticultural production at Daylesford Organic Farm before moving to the Welsh College of Horticulture as commercial manager.
Ben also works on a range of other projects and over the years these have included working as Horticultural Advisor and founder Board Member of The Community Farm near Bristol, and running a program of biochar trials with organic growers. He is currently managing a new agroforestry planting on Helen Browning’s farm near Swindon.
He is also a board member of the Community Supported Agriculture Network UK and committee member for the Organic Growers Alliance.  With all of this experience, he is also an author and has written The Community Gardening Handbook, and two family gardening books titled Grow, and Compost.

In This Podcast: 

For those envisioning a perfect community garden, Ben has put together a fabulous resource to guide, inspire, and empower the designers and leaders of future neighborhood plots. He tells Greg about the purpose he had for writing his latest book and some of the lessons he’s learned during his years of farming.

Listen in and learn about:

  • How he started learning about gardening because he enjoyed food and cooking
  • His time hanging out at an Italian vineyard and learning the skills of growing
  • More about the Soil Association and what they do in the UK – and how they offer certification as well
  • The new Community Gardening Handbook that he wrote and why
  • The concept that gardening is “an old man’s hobby” since the advent of victory gardens and how there is a shift with young people starting gardens these days
  • How Community Gardening is helping bridge so many gaps
  • Being able to envision many different types of community gardens to gain inspiration
  • Why he added practical advice on setting up a community garden and the community aspect
  • His struggle to decide which gardens to include in his book
  • The community farm project that he was involved with that helped connect the people of Bristol
  • Some of the key elements necessary during a start-up phase for a community garden to be successful
  • How the conversation about food supply and food sourcing changes when people are educated and understand more about growing their own food
  • Community orchards and edible trees in the city
  • Finding land in the cities for community gardens

As well as:

  • His failure – his first big commercial venture when he was trying to plant right after a rain and struggling to decide if he should wait for the soil to dry out and learning the value of patience; and the time he rushed and planted too much too fast without resources, learning the value of effective planning
  • His success – the future growers training that was started at The Soil Association ten years ago to help growers learn and grow together
  • His drive – He loves doing new and interesting stuff, and he loves people, and food.
  • His advice – Find some local vegetable gardeners and spend time talking or if possible working with them for a while

Books written by Ben

The Community Gardening Handbook: The Guide to Organizing, Planting, and Caring for a Community Garden (Hobby Farms)

Grow: A Family Guide to Growing Fruits and Vegetables

Compost: A Family Guide to Making Soil from Scraps

Ben’s Book recommendations:        

The Salad Bible: Leafless Gourmet by Davida Rantz Zelcer

How to Grow Winter Vegetables by Charles Dowding

Growing Green: Animal-Free Organic Techniques Jenny Hall and Iain Tolhurst

How to reach Ben:    

Twitter: @ben_raskin


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