Monday, November 08, 2010

Garden Communicators Lunch Connections

Clint Albin, Cheval Force Opp, and I chatted in Dallas, TX, at the recent Garden Writers Assn meeting about how few times we all see each other in person in our own city, so I put out a open invite for Garden Communicators (speakers, bloggers, writers, photographers, editors, etc.) in the greater DC-Baltimore region to join us for lunch. Ten of us gathered at Vicino's* and chatted up a storm.

While mostly white, female, and middle-aged, the 10 of us were from a range of backgrounds and garden communication outlets -- from big city newspaper reporters to hobby bloggers to garden center employees. We definitely spanned the spectrum of hort industry interests.

We had an "introduce yourself" round and then a "brag/share/challenges" round. It was great to hear what projects met with success and what are coming on the horizon from talented local communicators.

Most of the "challenges" expressed were in making the connections between what consumers actually grow or, more likely, do NOT grow, and what garden centers sell, what we write about, what public gardens display and teach, etc. We can be doing a much better job of coordinating our messages and giving garden consumers news that they can actually use.

For example, we seem to all be covering food gardening extensively, yet there is still an outreach problem for the general public. They find it daunting and costly. Furthermore, once folks do go to the effort to grow it, then what? We need to complete the loop for them.

There were grumblings about social media and the demise of many local news outlets. It didn't take long for the conversation to turn to a notably absent local garden writer (directly invited, but no response) and his unkind words regarding a nearby public garden many of us adore. We mourned the recent death of one of Robin Ripley's chickens and thrilled to Cheval's road trip stories. Some of the communicators shared their "what-I-told-my-boss-so-I-could-attend-this-lunch" tales. Others comments on the direction GWA is headed and whether it was serving its membership's needs. Thankfully, the Cooks Source debacle did not rear its ugly head and we all were headed home or back to the office to digest our meals in peace.

We'll be doing this again. Likely timing will be early January at MANTS in Baltimore, MD.

*The well-worn East Silver Spring, MD neighborhood, family, Italian eatery -- great food, good service, low prices -- 10 of us ate and ate and it came to under $95! Hey, any restaurant that gives us free aps and dessert has my loyalty.


  1. Great summary of the meeting, Kathy. Thanks for getting us all together. I truly wish I hadn't eaten so much. But it was for a good cause.

  2. It's wonderful to hear of gardeners getting together in an in-person informal way.

    The point you bring up regarding the big emphasis on Food Gardening, is an area where I clearly see a disconnect that turns off the "general public'. I know it's all the rage for gardening magazines etc. to talk about growing produce, but frankly many gardeners will end up wasting a lot of time/money and getting nowhere.

    After spending $$ on supplies and many months carefully growing from seed last Spring, I ended up with only 1 tomato. The hot summer and water restrictions meant that many people's veggie gardens did not do well, and ultimately it just doesn't pay off when vegetables of all sorts are so widely available and reasonably-priced at local Farmer's Markets & Groceries. Growing food seems good on paper, but for most of us who work full-time and have long commutes and busy lives, it's a recipe for failure to try to grow edibles.

  3. Excellent event and thanks for making it happen!

  4. I can recommend the eggplant parm....and garden people in general.

  5. Thank YOU Robin, Susan H and Susan R for making this first-ever event a success.

    Crystal - I feel you pain. There is a lot of food gardening enthusiasm out there that is not being tempered by reality. Not all edibles are as demanding as tomatoes, for example garlic is the "set it and forget it" hero of the veggie world. Other edibles I'd recommend for those who can't give daily watering, weeding, harvesting attention to a vegetable patch are of the shrub, cane, and tree variety: serviceberries, blackberries, figs, etc.

  6. Cindy5:02 PM

    I am very glad to have joined you all for lunch - interesting conversations. Crystal brings up a good point on conveying the cost of growing edibles, but then again I have wasted a lot of money on growing all types of plants. Thank goodness I have also succeeded with many others. As one who lectures frequently on growing edibles, I always have the "cost" conversation with the audience. If this is the first attempt at growing a veggie gardening, realize it is as expensive as any other first time garden. It costs money, or a lot of labor, to get a space ready to grow any type of garden. I highlight the joys on the joys of producing things you are going to consume, not the economics. Although I work full time (plus), I make the time to tend my tomatoes. Just like everything in life - everyone has to decide what is worth their time. I'd much rather tend my tomatoes than scrub the floors!

    Also, it was mentioned that after growing the veggies, people didn't know what to do with them. I felt the same way, that's why I decided to work with the Washington Post Food Section and the Home section to create a blog - All We Can Eat/Groundworks - that combines growing veggies with cooking veggies. After visiting the garden, Adrian writes about growing the veg, and I create a recipe, or tweak an existing one,that features the veggie. It has been great fun - we've been doing it for two years; first at the kitchen garden I tended at Green Spring Gardens and now at the Smithsonian's Victory Garden. Every once in a while they appear in the food section. Maybe I can convince Bonnie to put them in more often so a wider audience can figure out what to do with their home grown kohlrabi. Check it out, maybe you'll find a recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.

    Again, great to meet you all - I look forward to meeting again. Cindy B


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