The scrapping of the $1.5M Community Food Grant Program isn’t the end of the world. As much as it will lead to communities most in need thinking twice about going ahead with their community garden or farmers market project, it brings to bear new opportunities. I think the conversation has gotten to the point where its seems too important to not go ahead over some government funding. Provided planning laws don’t change to inhibit these projects, the barrier of entry remains relatively low. And you can always just do it without permission. But the opportunity, I think, is going a step further to harnessing the power and energy of the crowd and using crowdfunding to fund these project.
Soon after the election of a new conservative government in 2013, the Climate Commission, an agency set up to advise on the science and economics of carbon pricing, was axed. There was uproar, people weren’t happy with this move. The leaders of the commission, mostly well-respected scientists, went out and spoke to the crowd. Within days they had gathered $1M in funding, from the community, via crowdfunding platform, Pozible.
I have supported a number of crowdfunding campaigns from local theatre productions, to a couple trying to rebuild their tiny house after losing it to a fire, to a permaculture magazine.
Running a crowdfunding campaign is relatively easy. All you really need is a compelling idea–which you would have needed to get the government funding anyway–and group of supporters. I reckon it is probably a more engaging way to gain community buy-in than dealing behind closed doors with council to apply for a grant. Here are a few tips for using crowdfunding to help fund your community food project:
1. Get out there in the community and talk to people.
2. Ask the people you speak to you follow you on social media (set up a Facebook Page for your project), this way you can easily stay in touch.
3. Set up a crowdfunding campaign using the likes of Pozible, and share it on social media and anywhere else you can.
4. Don’t neglect other fundraising avenues like community sausage sizzles, pot lucks, and good ol’ fashion asking.
5. Be as frugal as you can. To start up a small community garden doesn’t need to cost much money at all. Employ things like tool sharing, reuse what you can, and take to the likes of Gumtree to buy what you need.
Update: Here are some examples of successful crowdfunded Australian community food projects:
Clarinda Community Garden and Art Space
Flinders University Community Permaculture Garden straw bale gazebo
Bank Street Farmers Market