Grants for Gardens in Our Own Backyards

December 12, 2010 at 11:08 pm Leave a comment

Photo credit: Jimmy Johnson. Bees at work at the Narrows Botanical Gardens. Funding for two hives was secured through the IOBY microphilanthropy site.

Photo credit: Jimmy Johnson. The hives are located in the Narrows’ Zen Garden for Peace.

Newly graduated from a beekeeping course, Jimmy Johnson was pumped up and ready to introduce beehives to the Narrows Botanical Gardens, a 4.5-acre community garden he co-founded 15 years ago in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.  Bees would help pollinate the garden and its new, nearly 2,000-square-foot vegetable plot.

The problem, though, was funding.  Johnson and his network of volunteers had neither the time or the skills to search for and solicit a grant to cover the cost of the hives, estimated at $822.

Enter IOBY, a new online fund-raising platform for New York City environmental projects under $3,000. Within a month of putting in a request for a grant, Johnson’s project was funded.

“They were wonderful to work with,” said Johnson, a landscape designer, of IOBY.  “They’re the middle man between the person digging the hole and the community.”

For tiny non-profits and volunteers groups doing environmental work in New York City, IOBY offers an easy way to tap donors directly for support.  Built on the belief that environmental action begins on the “streets and sidewalks of New York City,” the microphilanthropy site connects under-the-radar neighborhood environmental groups to donors and volunteers.

“IOBY is designed to support neighborhood groups,” said IOBY executive director and co-founder Erin Barnes, adding that one in three environmental stewardship groups in New York City is operating on volunteer support, according to a recent survey conducted by the USDA’s Forest Service.

Since it launched in May 2009, IOBY – which stands for “In Our Own Backyards” — has raised money for 34 projects, half of them inside community gardens.  Many of the projects have related to food and urban farming.

Projects posted on IOBY receive grant money only if fully funded by donors.  If they are not fully funded within seven months, the projects expire.

Kate Gilliam, founder and director of Trees Not Trash!, a group that transforms empty lots in Bushwick, Brooklyn, into green spaces, turned to IOBY to fund a project.

She received a $1,150 grant to transform the unused 1,500-square-foot space behind the Bushwick Public Library into a garden. The grant covered tools, building supplies and garden materials, such as soil, plants, garbage bags and gloves.

“The garden is designed in such a way that there will be space for growing vegetables, space for educational purposes, places for having lunch, and space for just sitting and reading a book,” said Gilliam in an e-mail statement.

Trees Not Trash! plans to plant tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumber and leafy greens in the planter beds it constructed out of reclaimed lumber.  The library garden is the group’s fourth garden space. Its flagship garden is on Bogart and McKibbin Streets, which was once an abandoned plot that was being used as a garbage dump.

The Narrows Botanical Gardens is also planning ahead for the new growing season and hoping to install more hives.  “The community flipped out with the honey,” said Johnson of the initial hives funded through IOBY platform.  The 100 pounds of honey produced disappeared almost immediately once it was offered to the public

Johnson is planning to go to IOBY for another round of funding.  “Two hives,” he said, “are not enough for 4.5 acres.”

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Entry filed under: City Farmers, Community Gardens, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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