Fall 2019 Garden Meeting Minutes

Thank you to all our community members who attended last week’s annual fall meeting. If you were not able to attend or would like to review the content, below are the meeting minutes:

Newark Street Community Garden Association – October 12, 2019

President Maureen Spagnolo called the meeting to order at the Cleveland Park library at 1:00, a quorum being present (attendee sign-in sheet attached).  Copies of the agenda and the treasurer’s report were available to all (copies attached). Maureen began by welcoming the gardeners, including several new gardeners, and introduced the board members who were present, Bill Bonner, Therese Fergo,  and Jane Brookshire, and also Cathy Winer, scribe.

Maureen asked for a motion to accept the minutes of the spring meeting.  The motion was made and seconded, and the minutes were approved by acclamation.

Election of Board Members  

Three board positions were up for election, those currently held by Bill Bonner, Jon Mormino, and Beth Caplan.  Each was nominated in turn, the nominations were seconded, and each was elected by acclamation.

Membership

Beth Kaplan, Membership Chair, was unable to attend so Lynn Rothberg, who is on the committee, presented her report and added some additional information.  Beth’s report began by thanking Lynn and Mary Gautier for their help.

She reported that the Board has approved two measures that will help to relieve administrative burdens, reduce some of the redundancy on the part of volunteers, and lower the number of data entry errors.  First, gardeners will have the option of making online payments. Those who prefer to write checks or send money orders to the PO Box will still have that option. Second, the annual renewal communications will be distributed electronically to members who have an email address on file.  The small number of gardeners who do not use email (less than 6) will receive a paper mailing as they have in the past. More information about these changes will be shared as it becomes available.

Beth also reported the following information about membership.  There are currently 226 plots. Forty-five plots were assigned to new gardeners from the wait list in 2019 as of Oct. 6 (Lynn noted that 5 additional plots had been assigned from the wait list as of October 12.  The number of people currently on the waitlist is 136, of whom 108 were added during 2019, and 27 in 2018, and there are no names on the waitlist pre-dating 2018.] Was there a typo in her report? -108 plus 27 = 135, not 136] Lynn explained that many people on the waitlist, when their names come up, turn out to have moved or are no longer interested (e.g., because they are busier at work than expected).  She added that, in her experience, new gardeners are uniformly appreciative of getting a plot and are eager to contribute to the garden community. For example, on gardener workdays, several gardeners, including new ones, work together as a team to bring empty plots in bad shape (e.g., infested with wiregrass and rotting wood) into good shape so they will be less daunting for a new gardener. Lynn also explained that if a new gardener is assigned a problematic plot but shows dedication in trying to work it for a year, she will offer them the chance to switch to a new plot when one opens up. 

Treasurer’s Report

Hillah Culman, treasurer, was unable to be present so Cathy Winer read off the key points.  We began 2019 with $14,976.14 in cash, received $7,875, spent $5,346.29 (mostly for repairs to the water system), and now have $17,486.85.  As explained in emails to the garden membership, the board plans to apply a significant portion of that money towards the cost to construct a new, winterproof water system.  (There was discussion later in the meeting about the proposed work and how best to fund it since the total cost will be more than the cash on hand. See below.)

Rules Committee

Bill Bonner reminded gardeners that he had prepared a summary sheet on what to do to make the garden more pleasing; a copy is posted at the shed and it was also distributed by email.  He noted that underplanting is an issue; beds should make up at least 50% of a plot, with vegetation density seasonable appropriate. He intended to strictly enforce the rules on weeding along fences, which were not originally used in the garden but became necessary as the deer population exploded.  The Park Service has been working to reduce the deer population substantially, but Cathy observed that deer are still visiting the garden, as evidenced by deer droppings visible that morning. One gardener asked about the feasibility of constructing a perimeter fence. Others responded that it would be prohibitively expensive and that there was a substantial risk that people would forget to close all the gates.  One gardener said that, for her, bunnies were the biggest problem and asked for suggestions. Someone responded that placing chicken wire around the perimeter of her plot seemed to work.

Plots need to be winterized.  While the NSCGA rules say everything should be removed at the end of the season, applying that strictly is not feasible for the many gardeners who live in apartments.  What people should do is lay flat all poles and trellises and the like and remove all trash. Ideally any furniture should be foldable. Gardeners can, of course, have a winter garden, using plastic covered beds as long as the covers are not more than 3 feet tall.

Bill commented that when he sends a citation, people do not always respond, so he doesn’t know if they got the citation or took action to remedy the problem. He is going to ask specifically that people confirm that they received the citation and let him know what their plan is to resolve the issue.

Volunteer Coordinator

Arisa  Kayama said that they would be notifying people who had not satisfied the 10 hour/season work requirement.  If people did work outside the normal garden work days, they should let her know. There was some discussion of the need for consequences for people who neither paid the non-work fee nor did their ten hours (there are a lot of such people).

Homeless Shelter and City Services Update

Angela Bradberry reported that the homeless shelter is on schedule, with completion expected by the end of December and the first families moving in in March.  The city has not yet named the contractor who will run the building; once that happens, we will work with the contractor to provide a couple of plots for the shelter.

She asked the city to work on the standing water problem by the sheds following garage construction.  Unfortunately, the city did not come out until well into the drought, found no standing water, and closed the ticket.  There was a similar experience with getting the city to fix the fence by the trash cans (broken by a trash truck); they fixed the wrong fence and closed the ticket.  On a positive note, when she reported a problem with the city not mowing the area near the compost, someone came out and saw the problem, and mowing has been done properly since then.

Trash Removal

Susan Akman reported that the city stopped taking trash from the supercans along the fence because gardeners were commingling soil and weeds with regular trash.  They said they would resume collecting if only normal trash was put in the cans.  Unfortunately, people (including dog park users) kept on putting the wrong things in, so we no longer have trash collection.  Gardeners must now put plant material in the compost (or weed cemetery as appropriate) and take anything else home. She will post signs again.

Susan also reported on the children’s garden, which was a big success.  Yonah Rozen and others helped a lot. They had children’s programs on workdays and sometimes in between as well.  The children planted, weeded, and harvested. Most are 2-7; the older ones love mentoring the little ones. She noted that all children are accompanied by a parent.

Beautification Plots

 Peggy Lewis reported that it was a good year, and that she had many good helpers, whom she thanked by name.  Someone donated a bench, which has seen plenty of use.

Bee Hives

Ann Thomas reported that the bees they placed in one of the hives are thriving and producing honey. The hives are owned by the Beekeepers’ Alliance.  If you see the bees swarming, contact the 2nd district police, who will alert a bee rescuer who will likely come the same day to capture the swarm.  Bees are pretty docile when they swarm; the point is to get the swarm into a new hive. Someone asked what plants were good for bees; apparently DC bees get most of their nutrients from trees but they also pollinate in the garden.  Different insects pollinate different flowers, some are quite specialized.

Compost

Paul Basolo was not there to report but Tom Lore filled in.  The weed cemetery is new. Use it for invasive weeds and things like tomato plants, anything that could lower quality of the compost.  We will try to improve signage to encourage proper use of both areas. Paul is considering reconfiguring the compost bins to have six, rather than three bins.  This will work better and faster to break down organic material. Gardeners using the veggie compost were reminded to remove plastic stickers before adding veggies to the bin – it is time consuming for people turning the compost to remove labels from partially decayed items.

Trees

Elanna Goldstein is taking the lead on taking care of trees at the garden, making sure they are watered as needed.  She will be organizing a team for next year to continue that and to prune as needed, etc.

Website Launch

Jon Mormino and Juliet Brender have updated it.  Take a look!

Fundraising Efforts for Water System Replacement

The current water system is old, poorly designed so pipes freeze, and constantly springing leaks; we have spent about $7,000 on repairs over the last three years and can expect that to continue.  The city has given us permission to replace the system, and Jon put out a request for bids. We only got one bid, for [how much?]. While we can use a big chunk of our reserve towards the project, we will also need to raise additional funds.

Jon Mormino and Beth Caplan have set up a “Go Fund Me” account, but it is unlikely by itself to raise enough.  There was a robust discussion about how to raise the needed money. Carol Ruple did not like the idea of a Go Fund Me approach as she felt that everyone should contribute equally. She urged us to raise the dues to $30 (the maximum allowed by DPR), increase the non-work fee, and  have a special assessment if more is needed. Several people felt that $25 for the non-work fee was too low, but they also recognized that if we raised it too much, people would be less inclined to pay it, thus defeating the fundraising goal. There was a general consensus that having the non-work fee be $50 was appropriate.

Peggy Lewis said that there was a precedent for a special assessment, that the records indicate that is how the original water system was paid for, although the details were missing.  Susan Akman said that there should be a proviso that, if the special assessment was unaffordable for gardeners on a tight budget, gardeners could ask for a waiver. Someone asked whether we had considered doing the replacement in stages so we wouldn’t have to pay for the whole thing at once.  Maureen said that Jon Mormino was the one who knew the details on our efforts to get bids. The hope would be to do the work this winter, after the growing season but before the ground freezes.

DPR Requirements for Community Gardens

Maureen reminded people that DPR would be seeking comment in the near future on its requirements for community gardens on city land, like ours. She sent out a link to the DPR website setting out the requirements.  The comment period will run approximately Oct 19—Nov. 18th.  Key points include a requirement of only one plot her household (at the moment, this would affect about 20 plots in our garden), giving people living within 1 mile of a garden preference on the wait list (this does not affect current gardeners), and publishing the names on the waitlist.

Volunteers Needed

Maureen explained that Hillah was stepping down from Social Chair and Treasurer, and Mary Gautier, who used to keep the master list, had moved away.  No one immediately volunteered, so Maureen said she would send out an email looking for volunteers for these posts.

The meeting concluded around 2:30.

Respectfully submitted,

Cathy Winer, Scribe


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