In the fall of 2015, Twila Albrecht and Ellie Schertz (both 2015 graduates of Goshen College) began actively prototyping components of what has become the Fellows Program. They volunteered to interview local garden leaders to assess need and interest for networking more than 15 community gardens in Goshen. The gardens were typically functioning with little awareness of nearby church, school, neighborhood, and institutional gardens facing familiar challenges with community engagement, organizing, and production. The garden leader at Trackside Community Garden expressed that he was largely unaware that others were doing something very similar. He now feels that there are others he can connect with, learn from, and exchange experiences and resources with.
Through convening multiple public meetings during Goshen Farmers Market’s Share the Bounty Week, Ellie and Twila helped connect garden and community leaders, and listened to common needs and aspirations. They profiled individual gardens in a series of posters sponsored by a grant from the Well Foundation, and developed a proposal for an online resource guide and part-time coordinator to support garden leaders by making local supplies, tools, volunteers, and expertise more accessible. The goal was an empowered network of community gardens, leaders, and advocates to nurture ongoing collaboration and assist new gardens. Visit www.gardengoshen.org for more information about this project.
From this project, Twila and Ellie identified a need to connect around the core question: What can we do collectively that we can’t do individually? By naming this question, they also identified other emerging initiatives that embody this collective interest of working collaboratively. They discovered that recent graduates can provide energy and time for this exploration, helping the community strengthen current initiatives and improve collaboration at a low cost to organizations.