Over the last few years, thanks in large part to the sheer power of social media, crowdfunding has become a realistic and exciting way to get a multitude of projects off the ground.
In essence, crowdfunding is based on the concept that by appealing to a large number of people with an idea, it’s possible to raise the investment you need to get it started. Plenty of projects from school buildings to bandstands, new businesses to medical operations have been financed through the power of crowdfunding. But what about horticulture? Is this municipal approach to raising money a good match for gardening projects great and small?
For many it seems that in the face of government cuts and austerity measures, when it comes to community garden projects in particular, crowdfunding may prove to be a lifeline. One very famous example of a horticultural organisation running an exceptionally successful crowdfunding campaign was the Eden Project’s appeal for cash to fund a dedicated education centre. In 2014, the St. Austell-based charity hoped to turn two farmhouses into a ‘learning village’ where horticulture and food production matters could be taught. Additional plans were put into place for a market garden, where visitors could see food production in action. After placing an appeal online for people to crowdfund the initiative, a massive £1.5 million was pledged in under 24 hours.
Of course, not all green-fingered crowdfunded projects can achieve such a high profile or end up being so lucrative, but it is possible for more modest organisations to take a bite of the cherry. Take, for example, Incredible Edible in Bristol. Another food-focused project, albeit on a much smaller scale, Incredible Edible is reaching out to businesses, schools, hospitals and local communities and inviting them to help fund the cultivation of fresh fruits and vegetables in the city’s green spaces. To date, around £4,000 has been donated to the project online.
The Walled Nursery in Hawkhurst, Kent, has also recognised the potential in crowdfunding. There, the humorously-named ‘Wall of Pane’ project asks visitors to contribute cash so that the nursery can maintain the glass panes of its precious greenhouses.
Visitors to the nursery’s website are invited to sponsor a pane of glass for £10 or a full glazing bar for £30.
It seems that the more successful crowdfunded projects are those that offer something back. For example, it could be a tangible return on investment like the Eden Project investors will enjoy. In the case of community gardens, the promise of a basket of veg may prove appealing or, as with The Walled Nursery, it may simply be a public recognition of their generosity (on the Wall of Pane itself).
Horticultural projects seem to lend themselves well to the ethos of crowdfunding. Gardening and taking care of the natural world is something we often do alone but for the benefit of the greater good, exactly like the concept of crowdfunding. The advantages are clear and can benefit everyone – improved public spaces, a swell of community pride and the simple pleasure of growing fruits, flowers and vegetables can only be good news for us all.