Friday, January 30, 2015

And the Winner Is:

I just got back from the awards banquet for the contest and I'm still in shock. While I didn't won the grand prize, I did get second place, which comes with a $750 prize to be used for the project! I also got a lovely award, which I plan to frame along with a copy of the check and the program from the awards luncheon.

Not only that, several people came up to me to offer various kinds of assistance with the project. This is actually going to happen!

Now i really have to ramp up my search for a location.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Looking for a Location

While I'm waiting to find out how much money I will have to implement my project, I'm looking for potential locations. My all-time favorite is close enough to the high school to make it easy for the horticulture students to work in it. When it didn't show up in a search of the property tax rolls, I presumed it was owned by the city. It embed out that it is owned by an obscure church with no phone number or physical address and my email to them has gone unanswered.

Now I'm looking around at vacant lots as I go about my day-to-day business, trying to find a location for my garden. So far every location I've found doesn't show up on the property tax rolls. Do churches own every vacant lot in town, or am I just not finding the right places?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rules and Regulations

Well, I broke my writing streak. For some reason it was hard to write about gardening when the weather dumped 12 inches of snow in just a few hours. It's not like I DID anything related to the snow, unless you count making a big or of stew and a pan of cornbread "snow related."

Back to the chronicle of my work on the community garden....

I may be waiting for the final answer on how much money I'll have available for the project, but that doesn't mean I'm not working on it. I have so much to learn, not about the gardening part, but about the project part.

I've handled a large project before so it's not all new territory. Back when I worked for the state of Utah medicaid office, I handled the technical, installation, and implementation phases of putting in a new phone routing system. While the application is different, the concept is similar. I need to dot all the i's and cross all the it's as I go.

First, of course, is getting grip on any rules and regulations involved. Imagine my surprise when I was told by a city planner that the location I hope to use is zoned for "farm, ranch, or garden" of AT LEAST 5 acres.  That's 217,800 square feet.  A square plot of 5 acres would be just short of 467 feet per side.

To put that in perspective, that's about 2 (average) city blocks.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015


After my spate of enthusiasm research I convinced myself I would never hear from the contest again. After all, surely there were dozens, if not hundreds, of other ideas that were better organized and had more backing than a loose-knit group of people who "liked my idea."  I didn't (and still don't) even have enough money to arrange an organizational meeting. I thought my idea would be on hold indefinitely.

On January 12 I got a "heads up" message from the contest advising me to determine how many people would attend the awards luncheon in the event that my submission was a finalist. Still, I thought the whole thing was a long-shot.

On January 14th everything changed. I got an email advising me that my idea is a finalist! Linda thought I was going to pass out at my computer. I went to the contest page and learned that my idea, Northeast Amarillo Community Gardens, is one of only five finalists and would win at least $250! While that's not a fortune for a project like this, it at least gives it a chance. I won't know which prize it won until the 30th. Rest assured I'll be posting the results here as soon as I know them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Research - Step 2

The next step in my research, after online and the library searches was emails. I started with an email to the horticulture instructor at Palo Duro High School, Russell Camp. He responded quickly and enthusiastically and we set up a meeting to discuss the idea.

I'll admit I was hoping that he would offer to take over the idea and run with it, bit I pretty much knew in advance that wouldn't happen. Mostly he  that he thought he could get the school district to allow his pupils to help with the project if I could get the ball rolling. It was after my meeting with him that I went ahead with the application.

The app asked how many team members there were and I said 5, as that is the number of people I figured I could pull together at first. I was pushing it calling them a "team" since it is all very loose-knit.

I also emailed the contact person listed for the existing community garden here is Amarillo, the West Hills Community Garden. Unfortunately I have yet to hear back from her, but that may be because it's the "off season" for gardening.

Maybe I'll hear from her yet.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Research - Step 1

As stated before, I learned a lot about this project by picking brains. That's how I learn best. I find someone who knows about a subject and talk to them. I often don't even know what questions to ask, so I just tell them I wasn't too know about the topic. Once I learn enough to know what questions to ask I'm well on my way.

I started my brain-picking with an employee at the north branch of the Amarillo public library. I forgot to take down her name, but she was immensely helpful. She was able to locate some resources and print them for me. Some of it duplicated my initial research online but at least it confirmed that I was on the right track. She also have me the name of some employees at the main branch who might be helpful.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Getting Started

When I first came up with the idea it was nothing more than a question: Why doesn't someone set up a community garden in northeast Amarillo? Then I heard the ad on the radio for the contest and started bouncing ideas off of the people around me.

Prior to entering the contest I started researching the process, but information wasn't always easy to come by, and most of it was vague. I read everything I could find on the topic and spoke to a horticulture teacher about the idea as well as spending a lot of phone time ferreting out info on the logistics of setting one up.

I already knew that creating a community garden wouldn't be as simple as digging up some dirt and planting a few seeds. To call that an understatement is an understatement.

Through this blog I will try to outline the processes necessary and the progress of the project.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Idea

I'm good at ideas, and I have this big idea for creating a community garden in northeast Amarillo. My enthusiasm led me to enter a contest called the Suddenlink Impact Challenge, and I got word on Wednesday that I'm one of the five finalists.

Now I'm nervous, as I always am when I feel pressured by responsibility for something new, and potentially major.

 I'm not experienced in creating community gardens. In fact, I've always had two black thumbs. Fortunately I have a number of resources to call on, including the horticulture teacher Palo Duro High School, who was one of the first people whose brain I picked about the idea.

As one of the finalists I should get at least an honorable mention so I will have at least $250 toward my project, which will give me the means to have organizational meeting in the area.  That makes me nervous because I feel obligated to do the best possible job.

My first hurdle is going to the awards luncheon where they will announce the order of the winners. Fortunately I can invite guests so I've invited some people for moral support, some I terms to have some social anxiety.

While I'm waiting I've been doing research on what must be done to implement the idea.

I'll post more as things progress. Wish me luck.