By Karen Gordon

I spent some time downtown yesterday. Having lunch (which morphed into dinner) meetings at Metro Coffeehouse and Whiskey Bar was so weird, because I’ve gotten into the habit of not going anywhere other than to see my family—and to Lowe’s, of course. I’ve been racking up on end-of-season clearance items in the garden section and getting ready for next spring. The lunch meeting was for that purpose—planning the next growing season.

We convened a handful of growers, some full-time and others hobbyist, to swap stories and discuss individual and collective resources and needs. One grower mentioned a new online course for beginning farmers. Another reported that they had acquired land and a new media outlet. And yet another is experimenting with an unconventional grow medium and sustainable processes.

We also discussed our needs. One person needed help getting products to market. Another asked for advice on developing partnerships. And yet another requested guidance with planting food crops in full shade.

Together, we began to formulate a solid plan for how we are going to use our individual talents (and networks) to reach our collective goal. To define how we will do all of this during a global pandemic… in hurricane season… in the midst of a contentious election… and, frankly, during the year 2020, where all good things went to rack and ruin. (Ok, I’m kidding. But no… I am not.)

This group has met virtually many times over Zoom and Google Meet, but yesterday was the first time we felt that we accomplished something. We sat between three tables and sometimes had to use our outside voices to talk over the chatter, but the outcome was totally worth putting on pants.

My point?

It’s quite simple. One of our growers, who now lives out of state, said it best, as I expressed frustration about how difficult it has been to get everyone in the same room. He said, “in order for this to work, each of you has to be willing to make it work… to stick with it.”

Although I started this topic because I REALLY wanted to talk about gardening, (I just wanted to share how I found mature Beautyberry bushes for $10 [Lowe’s clearance, of course] and how I finally covered all the cardboard in my mother’s garden with woodchips, and most importantly, my mushrooms and angel trumpets are successful) it’s really about decisions and action. Figuring out best practices for a farm co-op requires an entirely different skill set than, say, fixing a broken public education or two-party political system (didn’t see THAT one coming, I know). However, the basic elements are the same.

Acknowledge the need. Identify the actors. Build a team. Start with incremental and sustainable actions—many times the first of which is listening. Be willing to stick with it. Be willing to show up. Be consistent, and (y)our efforts will bear much fruit. Ask for help. Repeat.

Augusta is worth the effort, so let’s get to it. I’m willing to do my part, and I’ll stick with it. Above all, I promise to put on pants.

Keep growing.

Karen Gordon is a singer, songwriter and the founder of Garden City Jazz. She works with the City of Augusta to present the Candlelight Jazz Concert Series each year and has partnered with RCBOE to develop interactive courses such as Taking Notes: Jazz & The American Story and Jazz4Kids.