January 18 2022 at 07:27PM
PMI-SFBAC Sustainability Program Stewardship Event - SFPRD Garden Resource Days, Alemany Farm
Alemany Farm is one of 42 community gardens supported by the SF Parks and Rec Dept (SFPRD), and it is one of three communal gardens throughout the city. The primary vision of the farm focuses on combating food insecurity in the greater community, with an emphasis on community involvement to make the vision possible. This location is nestled next to HWY 280, amidst single family homes, a dog park, playground, church, and affordable housing, giving it many interaction points within the communities. The Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens, a group within the SFPRD, strives to work with sites like Alemany Farm to create community cohesion, bringing people together and supporting the needs of the adjacent communities, also referred to as “people touch points.”
While I was volunteering with the Urban Agriculture team for the “Garden Resource Days” in October and November, it was evident that the PMI-SFBAC Green Team was participating with a unique team. The program manager of Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens, Mei Ling started the day with instructions on supplies and processes needed for compliance with SFPRD policies. As the community arrived for free compost, seeds, and instructions, Mei Ling’s team coached and showed practical knowledge of creating community cohesion not only with the public, but also the green team volunteers.
“The growth I experienced [working the Alemany Farm Garden Resource Day]
by giving to the community and working in unity with PMI was rewarding and life-building. I highly recommend that each of our chapter members experience these marvelous team building opportunities."
James E. Smithwick, PMP, NREMT
Later I asked Mei Ling what her formula is, from a program manager’s point of view, on what makes community cohesion successful. Mei Ling’s approach starts with the community. Through spending many hours listening to site workers, Mei Ling learned some of the successes and shortcomings of a site. This community-focused approach provides her opportunities to offer her time and expertise on design and ideas. Knowing the value of trust, she is invested in the long term success of the program. I believe that empathy drives her processes - “When trust is established, so much more can be accomplished.” Likewise, she points out that each site has different “touch points.” Some gardens have communities of tension around them, so a quiet space is needed – a place to meditate. Other sites provide neighborhood kids a space to play, while others focus on food insecurity. It all depends on what the community needs.
The mantra of the Urban Agriculture team, Mei Ling articulated as, “It was after listening and considering the site purpose, we then switched from what people were taking out of the site, to what was being put into the garden. We started seeing an increase in hours of volunteering, people stayed at the sites longer, and sites were being taken care of better.” Collecting metrics based on cohesion within the community helps re-focus the desired outcomes.
“When we lean into the social system it becomes clear how we are helping and we can interpret the impact. “
Alemany Farm volunteers are creating a space that demonstrates and encourages families, students, and the community to come and be a part of growing food for those with food insecurity. Our time volunteering helped bring in the community members that are curious about gardening or may have a garden of their own, and some may be familiar with the site, but have not participated with events until now.
Although the PMI-SFBAC Green Team’s time at the Alemany Farm site was brief, the SFPRD Garden Resource Day(s) with the Urban Agriculture team leaves a lasting impression. Their goal of creating community cohesion through touch points is key to their success and gave me food for thought on how to incorporate touch point analysis into projects of my own. This practical knowledge extends beyond the solitary garden, displaying an ethos rooted in community engagement. Maybe this is applicable to team building and a metric worth exploring. I look forward to future opportunities volunteering with this group.
Theresa Connolly, PMP, SAPM
Note from PMI-SFBAC Sustainability VP: Our Green Team was glad to lend a hand for the two Garden Resource Days that were able to take place after a long hiatus during the pandemic. Join us for our next event in February, a clean up of the Berkeley Marina.