March 2009

March 14th, 2009


The first meeting of the garden’s 30th season!


Gardeners in Attendance: Mike, Carmen, Vlada, Mariana, Lon, Suzanne, Kirsten, Stephanie, Charlie, Pat S., Judy, Marisa, Emerson, Sarah, Deema, Michael, Claire, John Ryan, Rachel B., Frank, Pat G., Annabelle, Mark, Cara 


Compost in the Garden

In a very difficult, but honest conversation, the garden discussed the role of compost in the garden.  The garden was faced with a very difficult decision.  Our community composting project is an incredible source of pride for the garden, especially for the way it allows us to directly affect the greening of our neighborhood and for the way it has served as an educational platform that has earned us a lot of respect locally, nationally and internationally.  The other side of that has been an uneven allocation of time and resources away from other garden efforts.  This issue was brought to a head by a winter of conversations with the Washington Avenue Block Association and with individual neighboring homeowners who all had considerable complaints regarding the compost, most specifically the odor and the perception that the compost has been attracting flies.


This was a very important discussion and it was important for every gardener present to voice their opinion.  We went around the circle and every garden spoke for one minute, sharing their thoughts on three issues –

1) Should the garden move ahead with our original plan to put the compost next to Don’s house (though he rescinded his initial consent)?

2) How did each of us feel about the current amount of compost produced in the garden

3) Any thoughts about another possible location. 


Though the garden was forced to deal with the issue because of the neighbors complaints, it seemed like there was almost unanimous interest among the members to scale back our compost production, and to explore other ways to serve our community and more evenly distribute our attention.  


Some of the ideas/opinions expressed:

– there was much respect paid to Charlie for all of the amazing work he has done to develop our composting system and for all of the relationships with our community that he has fostered with it

– whatever happens, composting in our garden is not the only way to participate in the expansion of composting in our city.  We can lend our knowledge, our voice, and our advocacy to create and support other places where people can send compost outside of the garden

– we should scale back while we investigate these issues

– we should scale back, and start again, slower this time, and include more community outreach and education

– increasing the level of participation of people who drop-off the food – they should be part of the work that goes into processing a community’s food waste.

– it is a community service that we provide and people who participate (both in the process and in the drop-off) feel really good about it

– there was a lot of talk about cutting out the farmers market drop-offs

– there was an overwhelming feeling to respecting Don’s wishes

– the education aspects of our compost system should include the community (as well as even more of our garden membership) being involved in the whole process and not just with the finish product or as spectators

– the negative smell was very strong last summer

– “while we should not be pushed around, because we have rights too, we have come to the hilt with production and I wouldn’t want the smell in my nostrils”   

– there was some frustration about the Block Associations seeming attitude of not really caring about the work of the garden beyond an immediate capitulation to their desires

– there was some difficulty with the idea that while the Block Association has a president, it does not have representation nor a unified feeling on this issue so there seemed to be a situation in which we’d work out an agreement with one person, and then be approached by another.  Those things seemed to make a fair and balanced compromise very difficult to reach


The vote on whether to go ahead with the plan to construct our new composting system between the composting toilet and the rainwater harvester, in spite of Don rescinding his green light to do so: 19 opposed to putting the system next to Don’s house, 1 in favor of putting it next to Don’s house and 1 abstention. 


It was then proposed and decided to put the compost to the area behind the apple tree.  Because of the difference in square feet, that would also mean a pretty sizable reduction in the amount of compost we process and produce.  There were 20 votes in favor and 1 abstention.  


It was also decided to, for the time being, stop food waste drop off at the garden, as well as to suspend (possibly indefinitely) our part in the Ft. Greene Composting Project, which takes and processes food waste drop-off from the Ft. Greene Farmers Market.  We will finish processing the materials already in the garden, but we will hold off compost collection of any new materials until the new compost bins are built behind the apple tree.


A composting committee was formed to create a design proposal for the new composting area, as well as a timeline in which that could happen.  The committee is open to anyone to participate.  For more information, ask any of the current members: Sarah, John Ryan, Marisa, Cara, Charlie, Judy, Mike D.


By-Laws and Membership Commitment

Over the winter, the membership committee met to address the issues raised at our October 2008 meeting about the need for some way to make up a missed meeting, while still maintaining a mutual responsibility to each other.  The committee that met was composed of Claire, Jennifer, Gabe, Kate, Mike, Mark, Cara.  The committee came up with a proposal and that proposal was sent out before this March meeting.  At the meeting, members of the committee presented the proposal and it was passed, with 21 votes in favor of the proposal, and no one opposed or abstaining.  The By-Laws were official amended.


The Greenest Block in Brooklyn:

Marisa, who brought the rain water harvester decorating contest to the garden’s attention last year, has been inspired to try and get our block of Washington Avenue involved in The Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest this year.  This is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our relationship with our neighbors and the school, and work together to produce something beautiful.   If you are interested in learning more about this project, contact Marisa at


The Education Committee

The committee is going to be continuing its work with P.S. 11.  There is going to be a workday at the school on May 2nd.  For more information about how to be involved with the education committee, please contact Stephanie.



Previously we had discussed coming up with an annual Hollenback Community Garden t-shirt design and selling them to fundraise while spreading the good word about our work and joy in the garden.  At this meeting we discussed an additional (or alternative idea).  There was a lot of excitement over the idea of having a workshop/event of having people bring t-shirts (or anything else) to the garden along with a few screen prints and having a garden print making party.


Open Hours:

We decided to keep our open hours from last year, Wed. 6-8pm, Sat. 2-6pm, Sun. 10-12 & 2-6.

An idea about a spontaneous Open Hour credit was raised, but the discussion was tabled until for later.


Jobs for the 2009 Season

Thank you to Emerson for volunteering as a Rain Barrel Key Master.  And thank you to Carmen for agreeing to continue on as a key master from last years growing season.

Thank you to Deema for agreeing to continue as the Welcome Garden Water Master.


Respectfully submitted by Mark.


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