How to Start Your Own Edible Garden Trail
The Edible Garden Trail (EGT) movement started in the Blue Mountains in 2018. Since then, Trails have sprung up all over the country with each new trail initiated by someone visiting an existing trail – from the Blue Mountains to Sydney, from Sydney to Adelaide, to the NSW Central Coast, and so on.
Following, is a simple guide to establishing your Edible Garden Trail. There’s always something new to learn about the logistics, funding, administration, and promotion of these community run events, so try to visit another trail for inspiration and tips on how to set up your own.
Remember, an Edible Garden Trail is for the people, by the people of the plants! And not a business or money-making venture. Have fun, share your knowledge, and inspire edible gardening as the healthy, inclusive, environmentally sustainable pastime that it is.
1. Timing: Allow at least 6 months from idea to Trail weekend and set your date! NB: Check local events calendars for clashes.
2. Establish a Planning Team: Establish a planning team to help organise the garden trail. This group should be responsible for setting a date for the trail, coordinating with participating gardeners, and promoting the event. Each team member requires a role with particular tasks to suit their skills and available time. (eg: social media, funding, organising insurance, gardener coordinator etc.) Keep your team small with people who are prepared to donate their time and complete the tasks.
3. Funding Requirements: It is possible to establish an EGT with no funding but there are always costs associated with putting on an event, so consider applying for small grants available from local councils, community banks etc. Central Coast NSW developed their trail without any printed material to save money ie: no program, flyers, or printed tickets - they used Humanitix for ticketing. And they promoted the event entirely via social media.
4. Ticketing: Decide whether your Trail will be a free or paid event. This may depend on how many gardens are on your Trail. Blue Mountains EGT charge $25 per person for a weekend pass ($20 concession) to see over 40 gardens. The Hobart event, Home Harvest Edible Garden Trail is free but has significant funding to cover the costs associated with running it.
5. Network: Identify members of your community who are interested in gardening and would be willing to participate in a garden trail. Reach out to your own network, local gardening clubs, community gardens, permaculture groups, and other organisations to find interested individuals. Use word of mouth, social media, and local newsletters to spread the word and garner interest.
6. Create Guidelines for Participation: Develop guidelines for participating gardeners, including requirements for garden maintenance and safety, hours of opening etc. Make sure all participating gardens are safe and accessible to visitors, and establish rules for visitors, such as no picking or damaging plants.
7. Promote the Event: Use social media, flyers, and other promotional materials to advertise the garden trail to the community. Be sure to include the date, time, and location of the event, as well as a list of participating gardens and acknowledge sponsors. See appendix for sample press releases to local newspapers etc.
8. Insurance: Find an organisation to auspice your event and cover insurance. This could be your local permaculture group, food co-op, Slow Food organisation, or garden club. You’ll need event insurance, with or without a cancellation clause, to cover you for any mishaps*. Also check that gardeners have public liability insurance on their household insurance – it is a standard inclusion.
9. Maps: Create a map of the garden trail with addresses so visitors can navigate their way to the different gardens. This can be an online google map or a simple hard copy list of addresses. Include a QR code to link to the google map you have created to make it easy for people to drive between gardens.
10. Signage: Provide signage, or ask gardeners to make their own, to show they are a participating garden on the Trail. Blue Mountains EGT gardens use brightly coloured yellow fabric and signs outside each open garden. Central Coast NSW used a template to paint signs, aprons, and t-shirts to show their involvement. Gardeners can also provide signs to identify and explain plants, worm-farms, compost systems and the like, or they can make a mud map of their garden if it is large. Signage on plants can range from Paddle pop sticks to QR codes. QR codes can also provide information about growing conditions and even recipes.
11. Support gardeners: Have a pre-trail gathering about two weeks prior to the event for the gardeners to meet each other, collect any signage, instructions, learn what to expect on the Trail weekend, and share their enthusiasm. Plan another gathering two weeks after the Trail to celebrate.
12. Wrangle Volunteers: Suggest participating gardeners recruit volunteers to help with the event, including such tasks as directing visitors, answering questions, helping with parking, or selling produce. Friends and family are best for this.
13. Educational Workshops: If considering workshops - ensure they are not held on the same weekend as the Trail. Workshops on topics such as composting, pest control, and cooking with fresh produce could be promoted and held before or after the Trail so as not to use valuable pre-trail media or conflict with the event weekend.
14. ENJOY THE TRAIL and the enthusiasm of visitors and gardeners alike!
15. Evaluate and Improve: After the event, evaluate its success and gather feedback from participants. Use this information to improve the event for future years.
16. Set Aside Funds: If you collected money for ticket sales distribute excess funds to participating school and community gardens in the form of small grants and set aside a portion to help cover the costs of your next Trail.
*Contact Blue Mountains Food Co-op for more information on insurance policy.